Belfast Telegraph

Antrim in top 10 for rural crime

Farmers urged to be vigilant as agriculture-related theft costs county £1.2m

By Amanda Ferguson

Co Antrim is among the top 10 UK counties for rural crime, a new report reveals.

According to NFU Mutual's latest annual Rural Crime Survey the theft of tools, livestock, tractors, and fuel, among other items, cost the overall UK economy £44.5m in 2013, with Co Antrim finding itself number nine on the list of 10 areas worst impacted.

The estimated cost of rural crime to the county was £1.2m.

Following a fall last year, the new figures reveal an increase of 5.2% and while the number of agricultural vehicles stolen fell, the value of claims increased.

The East Midlands, Northern Ireland, East Anglia and the North East experienced the largest year-on-year increases – 38%, 15%, 12% and 12% respectively.

While theft of expensive tractors for export to Eastern Europe and elsewhere is continuing, a new trend identified this year is thieves targeting lower-value tractors not fitted with hi-tech systems which are then exported to developing countries.

Quad bikes were once again heavily targeted by rural thieves, with the cost of theft up 14% in 2013.

The cost of livestock theft rose 25% across the UK, making 2013 one on 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.

The report also indicates a new crime trend in the theft of pesticides from farm chemical stores.

In one case, farm chemicals costing nearly £20,000 were stolen in a single raid.

Tim Price, NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist, said: "After a welcome fall in the cost of rural theft in 2012, it's deeply disappointing to see it rising again.

"Much of this increase is from tractors – which can be worth up to £80,000 – being targeted by organised criminal gangs.

"There is no doubt that both opportunist criminals and members of international criminal gangs are 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.

"NFU Mutual supports local initiatives for the police and has provided over £400,000 support for the police agricultural vehicle crime unit.

"We're convinced that without these initiatives the cost of rural crime would be far higher."

For information on how to enter the NFU Mutual Country Crime Fighters Awards, you can visit www.nfumutual.co.uk/crimefighters.

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