North East farms turned into fortresses as rural crime soars

A file picture of a farmer on his quad bike which had been stolen. Rural crime claims have risen by more than a fifth in the first half of the year, a new report has suggested
A file picture of a farmer on his quad bike which had been stolen. Rural crime claims have risen by more than a fifth in the first half of the year, a new report has suggested
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Rural crime claims have risen by more than a fifth in the first half of the year - with North East farms the worst affected, a new report has suggested.

Despite a slight drop in the cost of such crime to just under £40million last year, early claims statistics show a sharp increase in the first half of 2017, NFU Mutual said.

Releasing its annual report on rural crime across the four regions of the UK for last year, the insurer described farmyards being turned into fortresses to ward off "brazen" thieves.

It said farmers have taken high-tech steps including using infra-red surveillance and installing tracking devices on their tractors.

The apparent rise in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year is "deeply worrying", Tim Price of NFU Mutual said.

England bore the brunt of the 2016 crime cost at just under £34million, while the cost to Northern Ireland was £2.5million, Scotland £1.6m, and Wales £1.3m.

The North East was the worst affected area last year, the report said, with such crime costing more than £7million, an increase of almost 9% on 2015.

Tools and quads were the most targeted items, with the cost of thefts of the latter rising to £2million last year, the report said.

Livestock theft cost an estimated £2.2million last year, falling everywhere apart from Wales, it added.

Mr Price, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: "While the fall in rural theft in 2016 is welcome news, the sharp rise in the first half of 2017 is deeply worrying.

"Countryside criminals are becoming more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.

"In some parts of the country, farmers are having to turn their farmyards into fortresses to protect themselves from repeated thieves who are targeting quads, tractors and power tools."

He added that partnerships between police, farmers and rural organisations had helped tackle rural crime.