Growing awareness among both the Scottish farming community and the country’s police force of the extent of rural crime led to a slight reduction in the cost of rural crime suffered in Scotland last year – but theft still cost countryside areas in excess of £1.7 million in 2015.
Releasing its Rural Crime Report this week, rural insurer NFU Mutual showed that across the UK as a whole crime was losing the country’s economy over £42.5m.
Commenting on the downturn in the Scottish figure, Tim Price, the Mutual’s rural affairs specialist, yesterday said that while rural crimes figures had historically been low in Scotland, more farms and rural properties had been targeted in recent years – and this had led to the launch of a concerted campaign.
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He said that the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) had helped raise awareness amongst those living in the countryside and had led to a more security conscious mindset.
“While crime levels remain generally low in most of Scotland’s countryside areas, it had been increasing in recent years but the campaign partnered by Police Scotland has encouraged people to put the security of their belongings and businesses to the forefront of peoples’ minds,” he said.
Price said that while the figures showed that the value of rural crime in Scotland had fallen by 6 per cent in 2015, there had been a significant drop in specific areas such as quad bike thefts, which were back by 37 per cent.
However, quads and other ATVs remained the most common target for thieves across Scotland over the last 12 months with, tools and oil and diesel also being a focus of criminal activity.
Martin Malone, NFU Mutual regional manager for Scotland said: “It’s good news that rural crime in Scotland has gone down. We believe that it’s largely down to the massive efforts of rural dwellers, the police and ourselves to make it hard for thieves to operate in the countryside.”
However he warned: “Thieves don’t go away; if you improve security in one area they will seek a way to bypass your security measures – or find something else they can steal from farms.”
He said this meant that farmers faced a continual battle to stay one step ahead of the thieves, by keeping an ear to the ground to follow local crime trends and continually reviewing and improving security.
“The work we are doing to support rural policing across Scotland through our funding of the new SPARC initiative is already showing results and sending a clear message to would-be thieves that the countryside is not an easy target.”