Rural Crime Report 2021

There is nothing more gut-wrenching for a farmer to wake up one day to find your tractors have been stolen, waste has been dumped or your land, or your prized cattle have been killed by heartless crooks.

The cost of rural crime has been impacting the community for years. Its cost to the UK economy is significant. The impact on farmers and their communities is substantial.

NFU Mutual – Rural Crime Survey 2021

In this article, we provide insight into NFU Mutual’s latest findings in their annual rural crime survey.

NFU Mutual’s theft claim figures show rural crime cost the UK £43.3m in 2020; a decrease of nearly 20% versus 2019.

It’s encouraging to see rural crime reduce YoY as in 2019 the figures were highest recorded in eight years.

While the number of theft claims went down, thieves got more bang for their buck as the average cost of crime rose to £4,425 – up from £4,128 in 2019.

From the report:

“Lockdown movement restrictions, police rural crime teams, and beefed-up farm security helped to curb crime over the pandemic, with most parts of the UK seeing an overall decrease in cost.

However, skilled and highly-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards during the pandemic, stealing tractor GPS systems, high value quad bikes and ATVs worth millions of pounds. The cost of agricultural vehicle theft claims reported to NFU Mutual remained high at £9.1m as gangs capitalised on the countryside.

Agricultural vehicle theft saw only a 2% drop in cost from 2019, still well above 2018’s total of £7.4m. While livestock theft decreased by 25% to an estimated £2.3m, the South West region saw the cost of rustling rise by over a third.

Organised criminal gangs targeted sheep, which are thought to have now entered the food chain illegally.”

NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2021

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted crime in the agricultural industry?

As the data shows, rural crime decreased in 2020 compared to 2019.

Although the pandemic brought about a reduction in crime, never the type to let a good crisis go to waste, criminals soon found ways to exploit the situation. Criminals were able to strike harder, deploying new found tactics to negate security.

The report highlighted the following items as the most common and impactful types of rural crime. We have included some of the quotes from the report to highlight the impact rural crime has on individuals, communities and businesses.

Tractor GPS system theft

Organised gangs are using electronic scooters to silently steal tractor GPS systems from farms.

These system costs farmers £10,000 to replace and command a good value on the black market.

“It was debilitating for our business to lose GPS systems from our tractors and combine right in the middle of harvest. The gang were highly organised and left us feeling vulnerable.”

Quad bike on a farm

Quad bikes and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs)

Criminals target farmers quad bikes and UTVs.

UTVs are double the price of a standard quad bike.

When left unprotected, these expensive items are rich picking for criminals.

“It is unsettling to think that people might be staking out the farm and trying to work out what we have here, particularly as it’s not just a place of work but my home too. I’m sure the thieves know the layout of farms in the area and come prepared to load up quads and any other equipment they can get their hands on.”

Farm image for CCTV blog

Livestock rustling

Livestock rustling continued to be an issue for farm owners and operators.

Animals worth an estimated £2.3m were stolen from farms last year.

Lockdown pets

The growth in demand for ‘lockdown pets’ is considered a factor in the rise of theft of working dogs and pets.

Some farms reported losing several sheepdogs at a time.

It is also reported some dog owners are now too nervous about walking their dogs in remote locations.

“Her financial value is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what her loss has cost us. We were simply devastated to lose her. She was a huge part of our family and our farm business. Not only was her work rate worth about three people, but she was my husband’s best friend.”

Fly tipping in the countryside

Fly tipping

During the pandemic, incidents of fly tipping were commonplace.

With local recycling centres closed, incidents of fly tipping become a regular occurrence. In a recent artcle, we discussed how CCTV can reduce the impact of fly tipping.

“Fly-tipping is a constant threat to human and animal health, undermines the safety of those who live and work in the countryside and is a permanent scar on our natural environment. Despite recycling centres re-opening, fly-tipping incidents are still being recorded daily by NFU Scotland members and are a continuous blight on rural Scotland.”

Improving farm security

Improving security to beat rural crime

In a recent article, we gave advice on the various ways owners and operators of can improve farm security.

These include:

  • Reviewing your current security set up
  • Investing in effective CCTV and alarm systems or remote CCTV and alarm monitoring
  • Deploying security lighting
  • Taking extra measures to protect vehicles – improving locks and securing doors to out buildings
  • Reviewing your perimeter security, protection and detection systems

According to the NFU:

“Protecting rural property today requires vigilance and an agile response. Thieves constantly change their targets and seek ways to defeat security measures.”

The report offers its own security checklist for farms:

Improving farm security - rural security checklist

NFU Mutual – Rural Crime Survey 2021 – full report 

We hope you have enjoyed reading our summary of the report. If you would like to read the full report, simply click the link below:

Rural Crime Survey 2021 – full report

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