Thieves target farms in winter rural crime spree

Police and insurers are warning farmers to ramp up security over a spike in incidents of rural crime affecting farms and people living in the countryside.

Rural thieves are taking advantage of the bad weather and dark nights to mask their criminal activities.

In recent days, farmers have been posting reports and images on X, formerly Twitter, of their farms being raided by organised crime gangs.

See also: 10 tips for farm crime prevention as clocks go back

James Peck, managing director of PX Farms, an agri business based just outside Cambridge, posted stills of a gang of four men breaking into one of his farms on 9 January.

The men were captured on CCTV driving out of a machinery shed in what appears to be a stolen Land Rover Evoque, which had its number plates covered.

Mr Peck said the men smashed open the electronic entry barrier to the farm, then sat watching near a hedge to see if they had been spotted.

They entered the farm in the Evoque about one-and-a-half hours later and broke into a shed, stealing thousands of pounds worth of hand tools and chainsaws. They were in and out in eight minutes, leaving the farm at about 12.40am on 10 January.

Mr Peck estimates it will cost about £4,000 to repair the damage caused. He reported the incident to police, but he described their response as “useless” . 

“I rang up the police and they gave me a crime reference number. That’s it. They are really not interested. They are just an administration body now,” he said.

Thefts ‘constant’

Mark Whyman, an insurance broker at Longfields, which provides insurance solutions for farmers across Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire, said he was receiving “constant” claims at the moment.

“There seems to be more of an increase in rural thefts recently, probably because of the darker nights,” Mr Whyman told Farmers Weekly.

“It is just constant. We have had lots of thefts on farms. It is mainly lots of smaller bits of kit, especially power tools being stolen, not so much larger items of machinery. We have had this spike of tractor GPS kit thefts too.”

Mr Whyman said criminals are becoming more brazen and often raiding the same farms two to three times before stealing items.

“Criminals come along and see what you have got. Then they will take an item stolen to order, such as hedgecutting equipment,” he explained.

“They tend to want to get items off their hands quickly. Maybe it’s the cost-of-living crisis which is contributing to a rise in rural thefts.”

Mr Whyman said farmers should protect their assets this winter by installing lighting and CCTV in yards and ensuring everything is locked away, especially at night.


Police forces across the UK have been issuing numerous appeals for information regarding farm thefts.

West Mercia Police said a green Suzuki KingQuad bike, worth £10,000, was stolen from a farm in Shirlett, Shropshire, last weekend. The quad bike had a slug pellet applicator attached and it was stolen from an outbuilding.

Dorset Police said a quad bike was stolen from a farm in the Mangerton area in the early hours of 2 January, and a second was taken but later recovered.

Police in the Scottish Borders said a number of power tools worth a four-figure sum were stolen from a farm just off the B6355 near Ayton, Eyemouth, between 15 December 2023 and 2 January.

Meanwhile, Lincolnshire Police are appealing for witnesses or anyone who has mobile phone or dashcam footage after a JCB telehandler was stolen from a farm in the Peterborough area in the early hours of 27 December and then used to remove an ATM from the Spar store in Crowland.

Top tips for securing farm businesses

Rural insurer NFU Mutual says thieves are cashing in on the cover of darkness to steal from the countryside this winter.

Its rural affairs specialist, Hannah Binns, says quad bikes and trailers are popular items to steal. But thieves have also been targeting Land Rover Defenders.

NFU Mutual has issued the following advice to help farmers prevent thefts:

  • Close and lock yard gates
  • Park farm machinery and farm vehicles out of sight, preferably in a locked building
  • Remove GPS units where possible and lock them in a secure place overnight
  • Keep records of the makes, models and serial numbers of farm kit
  • Ensure security lighting, intruder alarms and cameras are covering all entrance points and are working correctly
  • Cesar-mark, etch or mark farm name and postcode on kit
  • Add tracking devices and immobilisers to vehicles. Farmers can also use mechanical immobilisers such as steering wheel locks or pedal locks on vehicles
  • Keep fuel tanks in secure compounds and consider using locks and sensors
  • Remove keys from vehicles when not in use and store them in safe, secure place
  • Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep updated about local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings
  • Report all crimes and suspicious activity to the police.
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