Rural crime rates soar as organised gangs target fuel

Rural crime rates soared in 2018 according to figures which will be published this summer, Farmers Weekly has learned.

The data will not be released until August, but rural insurer NFU Mutual said it was already starkly apparent that 2018 had been a bad year for rural crime.

See also: 9 tips to combat farm theft during darker nights

The organisation’s rural affairs specialist, Tim Price, warned the rise in 2018 would be more than 10% higher than the previous year’s figure.

“The rate will definitely be in double-digits, which is a huge concern,” Mr Price said.

“It comes on the back of a 13.4% rise in 2017, which was the first increase recorded in five years,” he added.

Mr Price blamed the soaring crime rate on organised gangs that were capitalising on reduced police numbers in the countryside.

“We are seeing increasingly sophisticated thefts backed by a network of co-ordinated outlets for stolen property,” Mr Price said.

One of the key targets has been fuel that has been left in the tanks of large pieces of kit.

One gang member will identify combines or other harvesters and big tractors that have been left in fields, open stores or yards.

Once the target is selected, the gang calls in a van equipped with a 1,000-litre tank and heavy-duty pumps to remove the fuel.

Mr Price said the scale of these operations was worrying, but of equal concern was a co-ordinated network of people ready and willing to take the stolen goods.

He urged rural communities to fight back by increasing security and sharing information about suspicious people and activities.

“Where possible machinery should not be left near gateways and roadsides. When a task is finished, machinery should be locked away in sheds,” Mr Price advised.

He added that, ideally, tanks should be drained and fuel stored securely in facilities where it is difficult for criminals to gain access.

While the big crimes are increasing, opportunist thefts were also on the rise, Mr Price said.

“Anything that can easily be removed, like batteries or technology such as GPS units or iPads are being taken.

“The cost of these is significant and again we are seeing a ready and willing network of buyers for these items,” he added.

700 litres of fuel stolen from beet harvester

NFU Mutual’s warning came after thieves in North Yorkshire stole 700 litres of fuel from a sugar beet harvester.

The harvester was parked behind a gate in a farm yard on Ryther Road, Cawood, near Selby when the theft took place. Police say the incident occurred between 7pm on 5 February and 5pm on Wednesday, 6 February.

Anyone with information should phone North Yorkshire police on 101 and quote incident number NYP-06022019-0507.

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