RURAL crime cost Warwickshire £1.7million last year after criminal gangs targeted livestock and farm machinery.
Warwickshire-based insurer NFU Mutual says the cost is up more than eight per cent from 2018.
Across the UK criminal gangs have targeted high-value tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles – accounting for an increase of nearly 25 per cent to £9.3m.
Livestock theft also increased last year with the UK cost going up nine per cent to £3m. Gangs taking large numbers of sheep, which are thought to enter the food chain illegally, are driving the increase.
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “Rural crime is like a wave as organised criminality spreads through our villages, farms and rural towns, affecting everyone in the countryside. We continue to work hard to stem the tide and are warning rural communities and helping with prevention advice, as there are concerns for the months ahead as the economic impact of coronavirus bites.
“As well as the financial cost, there’s a serious effect on the mental well-being of people living in rural and often isolated areas. There are fears that the impact will be felt harder this year as farmers have been working flat-out to feed the nation and many rural communities have been put under additional pressure by the challenges brought by Covid-19.”
And despite the pandemic the insurers are predicting another rise this year following a spate of sheep being slaughtered and butchered in farmers’ fields and agricultural vehicle thefts.
But Warwickshire Police has been working to target rural crime.
Miss Davidson added: “There’s no doubt that organised criminal gangs are targeting our countryside again and these figures would be much higher if it weren’t for the specialist rural crime team at Warwickshire Police who have been making successful recoveries of stolen vehicles and machinery, and improved farm security measures such as trackers for tractors and quads.”