A rural crime report from National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Mutual has revealed that rural theft cost the UK around £40.5 million in 2021.
The report showed that rural crime is a concern for 50% of those living in rural communities.
Chair of NFU Mutual, Jim McLaren, said: “Although there were welcome falls during the pandemic, reports of rural theft to NFU Mutual are on the increase and claims figures were up in the first quarter of 2022.”
49% of those in rural communities say fuel theft is the rural crime they are most concerned about, according to an NFU Mutual survey.
According to the survey, 89% of respondents were worried that inflation and the increased cost-of-living will lead in to an increase in rural crime.
Rural affairs specialist, Rebecca Davidson, said the first quarter of 2022 suggested a “worrying” return to pre-pandemic crime levels, with costs up by over 40% from the same period of the previous year.
Quad and ATV theft reported to NFU Mutual cost £2.2 million in 2021, and the insurance company warns that half of those thefts took place between September and December.
NFU Mutual said indications from 2022 suggest that the theft of diesel, heating oil and other fuel will rise as fuel prices do the same.
Agricultural vehicles and GPS thefts were worth £9.1 million in 2021, and the insurance company predicts this to rise this year as thieves turn their attention to trailers.
“Often left in fields and farmyards for long periods with little security, trailers are difficult to trace but easy to sell on without documentation, making them a favourite target of rural thieves,” the report said.
Latest analysis shows that livestock theft cost UK farmers an estimated £2.4 million in 2021.
NFU Mutual said ‘rustling’ remains one of the costliest thefts to farming, and rising food prices make it a more rewarding crime for criminal gangs.
Livestock worrying is still a concern for the company, as farm animals worth an estimated £1.5 million were injured and killed by dogs across the UK last year.
An NFU Mutual survey showed that 73% or dog owners, up from 64% in 2021, now allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside – despite 49% admitting their dog doesn’t always come back when called.
Rural business policy advisor for the NFU Scotland, Rhianna Montgomery, said:
“Livestock worrying is an extremely emotive topic for the vast majority off NFU Scotland’s members, with many suffering the consequences of irresponsible dog ownership on a regular basis.
“With maximum penalties now increased to £40,000 and 12 months’ imprisonment, we have been working with various stakeholders to raise awareness and promote the new legislation.”