Rural crime cost Warwickshire more than £840,000 in 2016, which is up 13% from 2015.
The figures form part of the NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report, published today, revealing that despite the UK seeing a 4% drop last year, the cost of rural theft has risen sharply in the first half of 2017.
According to NFU Mutual’s 2017 Rural Crime Report, early theft claims statistics for the first half of this year show a sharp rise of over 20% raising concerns that a new wave of rural crime is hitting the countryside.
The items most commonly targeted by thieves across Warwickshire over the last 12 months were tools, garden equipment, all terrain vehicles and quad bikes.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe says that combating rural crime remains a key priority for his office and Warwickshire Police.
Responding to the report, Mr Seccombe said: “While the figures from NFU Mutual are only one indicator and can sometimes be skewed by a small number of high-value claims, they nevertheless do show the significant impact that crime has in rural areas.
“This remains a concern for rural businesses and residents and it’s why I have made tackling rural crime a key part of my Police and Crime Plan.
“Over the last 12 months I have funded a wide range of initiatives designed to enhance how the police deal with rural crime. “This has included specialist training for our Safer Neighbourhood Teams in identifying stolen agricultural and plant machinery, information on livestock theft and identifying forensic opportunities to catch offenders when crimes do occur.
“In addition, the county now benefits from new Wildlife Crime Officers, who can help ensure specialist knowledge is available to their colleagues when tackling some of the crimes which cause concern among the agricultural community, such as coursing.
“I also fund a team of Rural Crime Co-ordinators, who work closely with partners such as NFU Mutual, local councils and community groups to help people improve their security and also increase the opportunities the police have to gather evidence to bring offenders to justice.
“Only recently farm vehicles fitted with tracking devices have been deployed to a number of locations in rural areas of South Warwickshire to help locate ‘would be thieves’, with a number of arrests following.
“Overall, I want to get across the message that crime in rural parts of our county will not be tolerated.
“It’s important that crime is taken just as seriously in rural areas as urban parts of the country and I will continue to push to ensure that rural forces like Warwickshire Police receive a fairer slice of national police funding to be able to tackle it effectively.”
Roger Campion, NFU Mutual Senior Agent in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, said: “Rural crime in Warwickshire has risen during the last 12 months, as countryside criminals are becoming more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.
“In some parts of the county, farmers are having to turn their farmyards into fortresses to protect themselves from repeated thieves who are targeting quads, tractors and power tools.
“They are using tracking devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farm yards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.”
The report reveals that being ‘staked out’ is the biggest worry for country people, followed closely by longer police response times in rural areas, according to the leading rural insurer.
Criminals continue to target Land Rover Defenders, quad bikes, tractors, tools and livestock despite increased security on farms.
Roger said: “The threat of becoming a victim of rural crime, and regular reports of suspicious characters watching farms is causing high levels of anxiety amongst farmers who know their rural location makes them vulnerable to attacks.
“Our advice to people living and working in the countryside is to regularly evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police and local farm watch schemes.”