Farmers braced for being targeted by more criminals

Farmers are bracing themselves for being targeted by thieves and burglars because of the rising cost of equipment and fuel.

By Nick Rennie
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 9:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 9:49 am
Melton NFU chair, Saya Harvey (centre), with Pc Rob Cross and Sarah Procter, senior group secretary for Melton NFU Mutual, pictured at a recent rural crime event at Somerby
Melton NFU chair, Saya Harvey (centre), with Pc Rob Cross and Sarah Procter, senior group secretary for Melton NFU Mutual, pictured at a recent rural crime event at Somerby

That was the message from the NFU Mutual, a leading insurer for farms and other countryside businesses, as it publishes is annual Rural Crime Report this week.

The figures show rural theft cost Leicestershire a whopping £1.2million last year, which is a drop of one per cent from 2020, but still very concerning.

Claims made in the first quarter of this year show a rise in the cost of rural crime in the Midlands and by 40 per cent in the UK as a whole.

Farm vehicles remain a top target as Land Rover Defender, quad bike and trailer thefts continue to plague the countryside and farmers are urged to boost security.

Sarah Procter, senior group secretary at NFU Mutual Melton Mowbray, said: “Our latest claims figures warn that rural theft is quickly gathering momentum as criminals make up for time lost over the past two pandemic years.

"We’re advising rural people to review their security, to help prevent crime and disruption.

“With prices of essential farm equipment such as tractors and quads rising fast and the cost of diesel soaring over the past year, there’s little doubt that criminals will be trying to steal from farms.

"We also know that essentials of rural living like heating oil tanks will only become more attractive to thieves as costs rise.”

Rustling has also become more lucrative for criminal gangs, and latest analysis shows farm animals worth an estimated £2.4m were stolen in England in 2021.

Soaring food prices could mean that livestock theft now increases, raising concerns about food security, animal welfare and people's health due to stolen animals being slaughtered in unhygienic conditions.

Last year, NFU Mutual invested £430,000 in rural crime initiatives, including support for an agricultural vehicle theft unit at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) which recovered stolen vehicles and farm machinery worth £2.6million last year.

Following increased investment with NaVCIS and one-off grants to help police tackle GPS theft, NFU Mutual saw the cost of this crime fall by almost half to £1.5million in 2021. Without GPS – an essential part of modern farming – harvests can be delayed, and some farmers left unable to work.

“Crime in the countryside causes high levels of anxiety and disruption, with many farmers and rural homeowners feeling vulnerable due to their isolated location,” added Sarah.

"The knowledge that determined thieves are scouring the countryside looking for targets, and returning to carry out night-time raids, leads to sleepless nights for many in remote areas.

“NFU Mutual is responding by helping those living and working in rural areas to put in place effective security measures and by continuing to provide major support to enable dedicated police resources to tackle crime.”

The number of fuel theft claims received by NFU Mutual fell from 2020 to 2021, but with record high prices for diesel and heating oil, the company claims data from the first half of this year indicates the frequency and cost of fuel theft claims have more than doubled compared to the same period last year.