Countryside crime cost UK farmers £39 million in 2016 according to a report by NFU Mutual. The loss of machinery, vehicles and even livestock is said to be taking its toll with some farmers considering turning their back on the profession altogether due to crime.
Claims cost more than £1m in 11 English counties and, with a cost of £2.5 million, Lincolnshire was revealed as the worst hit English county. Overall, tools were the top item stolen from farms in 2016 followed by Quad vehicles. Livestock theft cost £2.2m in 2016 and costs from the theft of Land Rover Defenders had risen by almost 17% from £1.8m to £2.1m between 2015 and 2016.
Emerging trends pinpointed by the report Rural Crime Now included farms being watched or ‘staked out’, ongoing livestock theft and older tractors being targeted by organised gangs for export to developing countries. Tractor theft is said to be most common in the eastern counties where there is more arable farming, while sheep rustling is on the decline everywhere except for Wales, where the cost has actually risen by £100,000.
Speaking about the figures NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said:
“With significant and varied differences across police forces, safety in rural areas has become a postcode lottery.”
“Farmers are reporting dramatic increases in incidents and are feeling more vulnerable as these actions continue. Violent crime along with fly-tipping, hare coursing and theft are just a few examples of the crimes farm businesses are being subject to. On my farm, we have suffered with constant hare coursing problems, resulting in gates being left open and stock being continually put at risk.
“The cost of rural crime in the UK reached £42.5 million in 2015 and the NFU is asking government and the Home Office to ensure increased and fairer funding for rural policing.”
The NFU launched the Combatting Rural Crime report with a reception at the House of Lords in July.