FARMERS are being urged to be vigilant as the clocks go back when criminals use the cover of darkness to steal rural equipment.
Insurer NFU Mutual, whose headquarters are based in Warwickshire, warns the combination of dark winter nights and fewer people out and about could lead to an increase in rural theft this winter.
The warning comes as the cost of rural crime has risen to its highest level for eight years, with organised criminal gangs targeting high-value tractors, quad bikes and large numbers of livestock.
Last year rural crime in the UK totalled £54million, and the cost of rural theft has peaked in the October to December quarter for the past two years.
This year the insurer found while some types of rural crime fell during lockdown, rural theft is now increasing in many parts of the UK as the economic impact of the pandemic bites. The latest crime trend to hit UK farms is the theft of expensive tractor GPS systems, with incidents being carried out in night-time raids.
Spokeswoman Rebecca Davidson said: “While some types of rural crime fell during the early part of lockdown we’ve seen alarming rises in smaller, more portable items of kit being stolen such as tractor GPS systems, with tens of thousands of pounds worth of equipment being taken in a single night. The latest breed of criminal is using a range of tactics, often staking out farms by day to return late at night and smash into tractor cabs under the cover of darkness. The damage and disruption to agricultural activities is causing huge anxiety in the farming community and we are working with police and manufacturers to make it harder for criminals to steal from our farms and villages.”
The insurer advises farmers to follow its Winter Rural Security Checklist below:
– Close and lock yard gates at night to deter drive-through thieves.
– Check lighting, alarms and cameras are working correctly and update if necessary.
– Lock outbuildings at night and carry out security checks.
– Avoid leaving vehicles and implements where they can be easily seen by criminals scouting for opportunities.
– Consider installing infra-red beam alarms, CCTV and floodlighting.
– Store portable tools such as chain saws, jet washers and welders in a secure locked ‘cage’.
– Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep updated about local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings.
– Mark tools, equipment and implements with your post code to deter thieves and aid recovery.
– Know what you own – record all makes, models and photograph kit to help police investigate and aid an insurance claim.
– Use trackers, immobilisers and CESAR-mark tractors and ATVs to deter thieves.
– Consider mechanical devices to anchor down quads.
– Remove keys when machines are not in use and store them in a secure cabinet where possible.