RURAL theft cost the UK economy £44.5m last year, reveal statistics which show a rise of 5.2% on 2012.
Details of the latest annual Rural Crime Survey for 2013 were unveiled by rural insurer NFU Mutual on Monday (11 August).
Thefts of high-value tractors, a rise in sheep rustling and opportunist thefts of garden tools and ornaments helped push up the cost of rural crime to near record levels, it said.
The East Midlands, Northern Ireland, East Anglia and the North East experienced the largest year-on-year increases (38%, 15%, 12% and 12% respectively).
At an estimated £2.7m, Cambridgeshire bore the greatest cost of any UK county.
Large-scale sheep rustling in the North West and North East of England led to the cost of livestock theft claims increasing by 68% and 52% respectively.
As a whole, the cost of livestock theft rose 25%, making 2013 one of the worst years on record.
Another new crime trend identified in the survey is the theft of chemicals, such as fertilisers and pesticides, which can be taken in small or large volumes and exported quickly and easily.
In one example, close to £20,000 worth of chemicals was taken in one raid alone.
NFU Mutual chief claims manager Matthew Scott said: "After a welcome fall, we're starting to see the cost of crime in the countryside creep up towards its 2011 peak."
The statistics come a fortnight after the government confirmed a two-year funding package to help fight rural crime across England and Wales.
Funding of almost £40,000 for the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) will encourage interaction between rural communities, businesses, organisations and the police.
The concept for a rural crime network was developed by the Rural Services Network (RSN), working alongside most of those PCCs serving rural communities.
NFU Mutual surveyed its network of more than 300 local offices throughout rural areas of the UK to identify current trends.
The most commonly targeted items in the last twelve months have been fuel – such as domestic heating oil and farmers' supplies of red diesel – tools and quad bikes.
Mr Scott said: "Criminals are not just cold and calculated; they're opportunist too. That's why it's important to stay vigilant and fight rural crime."
More than half of staff interviewed from local NFU Mutual offices as part of the study also said they'd seen customers suffer repeat crimes or had high-value items stolen.
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