Strangford’S MP has called for a task force to be set up to alleviate the number of thefts against farmers, after research has shown rural crime is on the rise.
Jim Shannon, DUP MP has expressed concern over the large amount of farm machinery that is being stolen from farms all over the province but most recently from Newtownards at Six Road Ends and another location last week.
According to the insurance firm NFU Mutual thefts cost the UK’s farming industry £42.2m in 2009, over a third higher than the estimated cost of £30.28m in 2008.
The last two years have seen a sharp hike in the number of tractors being stolen to order, often for immediate export to destinations like Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Jim Shannon MP said: “I met with Colin McKee to discuss the recent upsurge in thefts of machinery and in some cases even livestock.
“I have heard of specialised equipment being stolen and recovered in other European countries and in one case in South Africa.
“It is clear that this is the work of organised gangs stealing to order and it is also clear that the PSNI must consider the request of DUP colleague Willy Hay and set up a specialised task force to deal with this as the time has come when the volume of thefts justifies special resources.
“There has been a 28 per cent rise in thefts from farms in Northern Ireland over the past two years at a cost of £3.8m annually according to the farmers insurance company NFU Mutual.
“I have heard it suggested that thieves can no longer target building site due to the fact that there is a lot less building work happening and now it seems the attention has been turned to the farms. “Farmers are being urged to note serial numbers and to fit security chips to help trace high value machines.
“I will be speaking with the PSNI in our area to ask for special attention is paid to these areas whilst a province wide plan is being formulated,” he added.
Colin McKee, owner of Newtownards based farming outlet, McKee’s Country Store and Restaurant told the Community Telegraph that farmers needed to secure their property and be more conscious of rural thieves.
He said: “There is a lot of expensive machinery on a farm yard and it is very easy for someone to come in and steal what they can.
“Someone just needs to take a chance and farmers need to be more conscious of this.”
He said farmers ought to take keys out of vehicles and secure their farms to effectively hamper thieves.
NFU Mutual chief claims manager John Kenny said: “It’s disappointing to see that rural crime is on the increase and that rural homes and businesses have become a source of rich pickings for thieves.”
Emerging trends included ‘strip and ship’, where vehicles are stolen and moved to warehouses, stripped down to their parts and shipped aboard; and lunchtime looting, with thieves targeting workshops for power tools when farmers return home for lunch.