Farms and rural properties count cost of theft

ALMOST £2m worth of quad bikes, farm tools and fuel were stolen from Scottish farms and rural properties in 2013, according to the NFU Mutual, the leading insurance company in the rural market.

Sheep rustling has become more popular, with a 25% rise in livestock thefts making it one of the worst years on record. Picture: TSPL

This figure for rural crime in Scotland is similar to losses experienced in the previous year but the overall UK figure for 2013 has seen a 5.2% surge to £44.5 million of goods stolen.

Although the number of high-value tractors stolen from farms fell last year, the overall cost to the insurance company rose, with individual tractors costing upwards of £80,000. Most of the stolen vehicles are believed to have been “stolen to order” from Eastern Europe.

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A new trend identified this year by the Mutual has been the targeting by thieves of lower-value tractors not fitted with hi-tech systems which are then exported to developing countries.

Sheep rustling also became more popular among the criminal fraternity with a 25% rise in livestock thefts making it one of the worst years on record.

Northern Ireland, currently suffering a spate of cattle and sheep rustling, was the most seriously-affected part of the UK. Large-scale sheep rustling in the North West and North East of England led to theft claims increases of 68% and 52% respectively, with one claim involving 150 sheep. This activity gives a double concern for agriculture with the illegal slaughter and sale of those livestock into the food supply chain.

Quad bikes were once again heavily targeted by thieves, with the cost of theft across the whole of the UK rising by 14% in 2013.

A new crime trend this year is the theft of pesticides from farm chemical stores. In one case farm chemicals costing nearly £20,000 were stolen in a single raid.

Commenting on the latest statistics, NFU Mutual manager for Scotland, Martin Malone, said that although the cost of claims in Scotland had dipped, the threat of crime remained as more high-value items were being stolen throughout the UK.

“That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant and fight rural crime. Our experience with people who live and work in rural areas of Scotland clearly shows that theft is more than just a setback – it can be devastating for businesses and families.

“One of the rural community’s best assets is its people who can work together to safeguard the local neighbourhood.”

Taking a similar line on co-operating to prevent rural crime, Bob Carruth, head of communications at NFU Scotland, said that any theft from farms had to involve transport and any unusual traffic movements in country areas should be reported to the police.

Commenting on the type of crime, Tim Price at NFU Mutual said there was no doubt that both opportunist criminals and members of international criminal gangs were targeting farms.

“While the first group will often move on to an easier target if they see a farm has even basic security in place, the latter are professionally organised with a specific target, so it’s vital that farmers regularly review their security measures and update them to keep one step ahead of would-be thieves.”