Tuesday, 07 August 2012 23:16

Fighting back against rural crime

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Fighting back against rural crime

COUNTRYSIDE crime is on the rise with thefts topping £50m last year, suggests a leading rural insurer.

Theft from farms has reached new levels, according to NFU Mutual, as the estimated cost to UK agriculture tipped £52.7 million in 2011.

The 6% rise in the cost of 'agri-crime' came despite a fall in tractor thefts in England and Wales. Instead, thieves have shifted their focus to livestock, diesel and metal.

NFU Mutual group chief executive Lindsay Sinclair said: "It is a sad fact but the countryside has long been seen as an easy target for criminals.

"Encouragingly, country folk are not taking the blight lying down, fighting back with both high-tech security measures as well as more innovative schemes."

The figures, based on claims data, have been released to coincide with the publication of the annual NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey, a nationwide survey of branch offices located throughout the UK's countryside.

Unlike other crime reports, the study includes claims for crimes against homes, farms, commercial premises and vehicles.

While power tools and ATVs remain firm favourites with rural criminals, emerging trends such as metal theft are being carried a large scale.

An 11% drop in the theft of tractors was engulfed by the cost of replacing items that can be scrapped or resold for a fraction of their worth.

Although tractor thefts have fallen in England and Wales, they remain a major problem for farmers in many parts of the country.

Tractors are being stolen and exported from channel ports to final destinations across the globe.

A new trend highlighted by the survey was theft of agrochemicals.

NFU Mutual branch staff in arable farming areas noted thieves are now targeting farm chemical stores to steal pesticides and herbicides which can cost over £600 for 10 litres.

The survey suggests poor economic conditions and rising commodity prices are the two main factors behind the steady rise in rural crime over the last 12 months.

More than three quarters (76%) of insurance agents believe customers are more concerned about rural crime in their area compared to 12 months ago

But it appears farmers are refusing to take this blight lying down.

High-tech security measures like CCTV and tracker devices - as well as physical security measures such as locks and alarms - are often more effective than a greater police presence or tougher sentencing for criminals.

To combat the problem of tractor thefts, NFU Mutual sponsors a police unit to coordinate national and international operations to catch thieves.

The insurer is helping farmers fight rural crime by sponsoring national and regional rural crime conferences; liaising with police and local farm Watch groups.

Itrecently launched the Country Crimefighters Awards to promote examples of good security initiatives from individuals, groups and the police.

Discounts are also offered to farmers who fit approved security measures, including CESAR registration, immobilisers and tracker devices.

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