Countryside crime rate rockets as farmers see increase in thefts

Thieves have returned to raid the ­ countryside after a fall in offences over the last two years, at a cost of £40.5million.

The annual Rural Crime Report said farm vehicles are the top target for organised gangs while Land Rover Defenders, quad bikes and trailers are being stolen in record numbers.

Cattle rustling is rising too as thieves take advantage of soaring supermarket food costs, sparking fears of a burgeoning black market trade ­in meat.

Theft of petrol and diesel stored on farms has also rocketed, with half of farmers admitting it was their greatest concern and many having to spend far more on security.

The report by leading rural insurer NFU Mutual says criminals are ­“making up for lost time” with thefts in the first half of 2022 up by ­­40 per cent on the previous two years.

Despite last year’s fall, there were signs that rural crime had started to rise towards the end of last year.

With the rapidly rising value of ­second-hand cars and replacement parts, thieves are targeting the iconic 4×4 Land Rover Defender and stripping them down, with the cost of claims shooting up by 87 per cent to £2.6million.

Sheep and cattle rustling has also become more lucrative with the latest study showing farm animals worth around £2.4million have been taken.

Rebecca Davidson, of NFU Mutual, said: “Crime in the countryside causes high levels of anxiety and disruption, with many farmers and rural homeowners feeling vulnerable due to their isolated location.

“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.

“We are 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.”

Inspector Ian Cox, of Norfolk Police’s rural crime team, said: “Fuel theft is becoming a prominent issue both locally and nationally as the price of the commodity repeatedly hit record levels.

“Unfortunately, this means thefts also costs victims dearly, not to mention the physical, environmental and psychological damage caused.”

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