Criminals using cover of darkness to increase farm thefts

While your Granny might remind you that the nights are fair drawin’ in, a leading rural insurer has warned that criminals use the cover of darkness to steal from the countryside.

Ahead of the changing of the clocks this coming weekend, NFU Mutual has cautioned that that the combination of the longer winter nights and fewer people out and about after dark could lead to an increase in rural crime this winter.

The Mutual warned that costlier thefts tended to occur between October and December as organised criminal gangs targeted farms in overnight raids for expensive kit such as GPS systems and quad bikes: “In some cases thieves, who already know the layout of farms, are targeting victims of theft a second time,” said Robin Till of the insurers risk management services, who said thieves were not unaware of the fact that a stolen vehicle was often replaced with a new one.

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And he said that shortages and sharp rises in the cost of diesel, heating oil and fertiliser were also raising the risk of vital supplies becoming top targets for rural thieves this winter.

NFU Mutual reported that the cost of rural theft in the UK fell by 20 per cent to £43.3m in 2020 as lockdown measures helped keep thieves out of the countryside.

However, in recent years (2018 and 2019), figures drawn up by the insurer had shown that the cost of rural theft peaked from October to December and there were concerns thieves were becoming more active as people were able to move more freely again without raising suspicion.

“The longer nights and inclement weather mean criminals can move around farmyards and rural properties more easily without being noticed,” said Till. He said that now was a good time of year to step up security and assess measures which were in place: “Are your entrance and exit points secure, and are there expensive items on display? Could you target-harden valuable items with multiple layers of security?”

He added that while thieves liked the cover of darkness, they hated anything which would announce their arrival – so intruder alarms, security lighting and systems which send alerts and CCTV footage to mobile phones were excellent deterrents: “Thieves target anything they can sell on for a profit, which is why we are urging farmers to secure stocks of fertiliser and their diesel and heating oil tanks as prices soar.

“These thefts cause disruption and huge anxiety in the farming community and we want to work together to make it harder for criminals to steal from our farms and villages.”

As well as never leaving keys in vehicles, Till advised farmers to close and lock yard gates at night to deter drive-through thieves: “Farmers are also advised to lock outbuildings at night and carry out regular security checks during colder months – and to ensure that security lighting, intruder alarms and cameras are working correctly.”

He also said that GPS systems, where possible, should be removed and locked in a secure place when not in use.

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