Northern Ireland farmers 'isolated and anxious' as rural crime figures on rise
Farmers feel under siege because of the impact of rural crime on their livelihoods, it has been claimed.
The problem cost the industry in Northern Ireland almost £2.8m last year, a report reveals.
The amount lost because of crime in the countryside increased by nearly 4% from 2017, insurer NFU Mutual found.
Livestock, vehicles, trailers and horseboxes were routinely targeted by thieves.
Industry figures say the fear of crime is changing life in the countryside, with families now afraid to leave their farms.
They warn some farms are facing "disaster" due to the raids.
NFU's 2019 Rural Crime Report, published today, reveals rural crime cost the UK £50m in 2018. In Northern Ireland, the cost was £2,757,000 - up 3.9% on 2017.
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Ulster Farmers' Union deputy president Victor Chestnutt said: "These figures again highlight the real threat that rural thieves pose to Northern Ireland's farmers and rural dwellers."
He said farmers and rural dwellers feel "isolated and anxious" on their farms. Some farms have been hit more than once.
Mr Chestnutt added: "So far this year there have been several high value thefts involving tractors as well as a number of large livestock thefts, with repeat attacks all too often becoming a reality for many farmers.
"The financial aspect of rural crime can spell disaster for those affected, threatening livelihoods overnight and often there is a lasting impact on well-being that is difficult to measure."
PSNI figures show 386 agricultural crimes were recorded in Northern Ireland in the 12 months to June 30 this year.
That was a fall of 24 on the previous 12 months, continuing a downward trend since 2010/11.
But industry figures say that the actual fear of crime in the farming community has never been greater.
Recent incidents include a farmer who reported 29 cattle stolen from his farm near Aghagallon, Co Antrim, in July.
And last week a farmer reported the theft of 10 cattle from a farm near Newtownhamilton.
Chief Inspector Roy Robinson said: "Officers cannot be everywhere, but if members of the rural community work together with police by reporting anything that seems out of place, we can continue to keep the trend in rural crime falling."