Police are stepping up action against rural crime amid rising concern among farmers that constabularies must do more to combat theft and other illegal activities.
It follows a rise in the reported theft of farm machinery and equipment across the country – including the theft and attempted theft of dozens of quad bikes in a number of areas, including Fife and Northumberland.
Brazen machinery thieves also struck at the family farm of Farmers Weekly’s new machinery reporter Jos Jones on Saturday (18 June).
Offenders broke into the yard overnight at Mr Jones’ farm in Harvel, Kent, and stole a Claas Scorpion 6030cp telehandler.
They drove the machine two-and-a-half miles and attempted to tear a cash machine from a supermarket wall at a Tesco store in Meopham.
However, police believe the offenders may have been disturbed as they fled the scene, leaving the cashpoint intact. They escaped across a wheat field in a 4×4, damaging part of a wheat crop.
The telehandler suffered a smashed window, but otherwise had not been damaged. Police helped Mr Jones escort the vehicle back to his farm.
Increase in rural crime
Tim Price, a rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said farm machinery thefts had increased in the first six months of this year. “Six machines have been stolen specifically from UK farms to use in other crimes,” he added.
Police forces across the UK have warned farmers to increase vigilance amid reports of increases in crime in rural areas.
In Lincolnshire, a spate of rural crimes has taken place in the past month in and around the market towns of Market Rasen, Louth and Horncastle.
This has included burglaries to farms, workshops and garages, including the theft of tools, agricultural machinery and four-wheel-drive vehicles.
In Bedfordshire, police and crime commissioner Kathryn Holloway and deputy chief constable Mark Collins have launched a new rural crime strategy for the county following 101 incidents during the six months from September 2015 to March 2016.
The new strategy for Bedfordshire includes a Rural Crime Intelligence Network of contacts provided by the NFU across the entire county, as well as the appointment of a dedicated rural crime liaison officer to work with farmers and rural community groups.
In Northumberland, police have launched a week-long crime prevention drive to deter criminals in the county, stopping vehicles and checking they are roadworthy and carrying out dip samples of tanks to identify and deal with anyone illegally using red diesel.
Meanwhile, Police Scotland have urged farmers to step up security following a number of break ins on farms in the Fife area, including three quad bikes stolen in the last week.