Cost of rural crime hits £50 million in the UK

The cost of rural crime has hit a seven-year high in the UK, reaching a staggering £50 million last year according to new figures made public today.

The report compiled by rural insurer NFU Mutual showed rural crime in 2018 increased by 12% compared to 2017.

The last time rural theft reached its current level was in 2011 when international gangs took advantage of a largely unsecured countryside, according to NFU Mutual.

Rural affairs specialist Tim Price explained: “Today, we are seeing another rise as organised criminal gangs with links to money laundering and drugs find ways to beat security and steal farm vehicles.

“Farmers and country people are suffering from high levels of anxiety due to repeated thefts by gangs who take advantage of farms’ isolated locations to steal machinery, raid tool stores and even butcher sheep in the fields.

In a single generation, country people have seen rural crime change from the opportunist theft of a single lamb to brazen heists of tractors worth over £100,000 and rustlers stealing hundreds of sheep.

“We are even seeing agricultural vehicles being stolen to smash into village shops to rob cash machines. As well as causing huge structural damage to buildings, these raids can lead to shop owners not replacing ATMs for fear of further attacks.”

Rural crime around the UK

The biggest increase in rural crime was in Scotland, up 62%.

The north-east had the second-highest regional rise, at 25%, and East Anglia the third-highest, with an increase of 22%.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, the cost to the region’s rural economy increased to £2.8 million.

The cost of rural theft fell in two regions: Wales, down 7%, and the south-west, down 1%.

The increase was driven mainly by the theft of tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles, which rose by 26% to £7.4 million in 2018.

Quad bike and other vehicle theft claims rose from £2.3 million in 2017 to £2.6 million in 2018. While claims for stolen livestock increased from £2.4 million to £2.5 million.