International organised criminal gangs targeting rural farms, warns NFU Mutual - The Leamington Observer

International organised criminal gangs targeting rural farms, warns NFU Mutual

Leamington Editorial 3rd Aug, 2023   0

INTERNATIONAL organised criminal gangs are now targeting rural farms, warns NFU Mutual.

The Stratford-based insurer said it was no longer just opportunist thieves travelling a few miles to make off with a piece of farm machinery.

Now, highly-organised criminal gangs were targeting agricultural vehicles and machinery at farms in the countryside, causing the cost of rural crime to shoot up by millions.

NFU Mutual reports that rural crime across Warwickshire cost £1.2million last year – up nine per cent from 2021.

Meanwhile, UK-wide rural crime rose by 22 per cent to an estimated £49.5million.

The rise comes against a background of soaring values and low supply of farm machinery worldwide.

Criminal gangs have responded by establishing illicit global markets for farm machinery and technology equipment.

A survey of NFU Mutual agents who are based in rural communities across the UK found 70 per cent knew farmers who had been repeat victims of rural crime and 86 per cent said thieves are cashing in on the limited supply of vehicles and rising prices.

The UK cost of GPS theft increased by 15 per cent to £1.8million in 2022. However, the problem has sharply escalated in the first four months of 2023, with the cost of GPS theft doubling to over £500,000 compared to the same period last year.

Quad bikes and all-terrain-vehicles were also top targets for rural thieves. In 2022, quad and ATV theft reported to NFU Mutual cost £3million nationally, a 34 per cent rise on the previous year. These vital vehicles enable farmers to complete work efficiently out in the fields.

The UK cost of livestock theft rose 8.7 per cent in 2022, totalling an estimated £2.7million.

Claims reported to NFU Mutual regularly involve over 50 sheep being taken in a single raid, which has a devastating impact on breeding lines as well as causing huge worry for farmers about the welfare of the stolen animals.

NFU Mutual spokeperson Mike Alder said: “Highly-organised gangs are causing disruption to farming and widespread concern to people who live and work in the countryside.

“Rural theft is changing. It is not only opportunist thieves travelling a few miles, we are now seeing internationally organised criminal activity. These gangs target high-value farm machinery and GPS kits because they can be sold all over the world.

“Many items are stolen ‘to order’ by thieves using online technology to identify where farm machinery is stored and scope out the best way to steal it. They will also spend hours watching the movement of farming families to work out the best time to attack.

Mike added: “Those targeted by criminals may often second guess themselves in the aftermath of an incident as well as live in fear of repeat attacks on what is not only their workplace, but also their family home.”


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