Belfast Telegraph

Livestock rustling soars as farm thefts hit £3.8m

By Linda Stewart

Livestock rustling has rocketed in Northern Ireland by 184% in a single year.

That's the shocking revelation by rural insurer NFU Mutual which is warning farmers at the Balmoral Show of the need to boost security measures to protect themselves from the thieves that are costing the agri-food sector nearly £4m a year.

NFU Mutual chairman Richard Percy revealed that the estimated cost of theft from Northern Ireland's farms topped £3.8m in 2011, just a fraction below the 2010 figure — while provisional figures for cost of theft in the rest of the UK have dropped by 11%.

“While the cost of tractor and quad bike theft fell slightly last year, livestock rustling in Northern Ireland rocketed, increasing by 184% and costing our farmers an estimated £1.4m,” he said.

“As Northern Ireland's leading rural insurer and part of the fabric of country life, we're investing time, resources and money into initiatives to help farmers and country dwellers with the ongoing fight against crime.

“We're helping by raising awareness of rural crime trends, liaising with the Ulster Farmers’ Union and working with PSNI to help them beat rural crime.

“Our network of local agency offices are also closely involved, organising meetings, working with police and in many cases taking an active role in local watch groups.”

NFU Mutual has been sponsoring a police unit to co-ordinate national and international operations to catch thieves and is also working with two police officers who liaise with claims teams to tackle organised and quad bike crime — so far netting machines worth more than £1.5m from outside the UK.

Meanwhile, it is also offering discounts to farmers who fit police-approved security systems to tractors, such as tracking devices, and has just launched the Country Crime Fighters Awards.

“It is early days but there are signs that these measures, combined with close police liaison, are already having the desired effect of reducing rural crime in some parts of the UK. And there is no doubt in my mind that rural crime can be tackled if we all work together to make rural security a real priority,” Mr Percy said.

Highlighting its new campaign against farm theft, the PSNI said it has produced a series of leaflets providing advice for farmers in relation to rural crime.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Jones said: “Tackling crime against the rural community is a major priority for police. We understand the effect these crimes have on communities and the grave impact they can have on farmers’ livelihoods.

“Agriculture crime accounted for 4% of all crime during 2011 and the PSNI has a service-wide Control Strategy to deal with this important issue.”

Measures include carrying out theft prevention events across Northern Ireland, working with utility firms to make metal more difficult to steal and setting up a rural crime text alert scheme.

Belfast Telegraph


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