Cost of rural crime continues to fall in Northern Ireland

The cost of rural crime has continued to fall in Northern Ireland, however, rural communities are being urged to ‘remain vigilant’.

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual published its 2022 Rural Crime Report this week and, while there has been a decrease of 18.7 per cent, rural thefts in Northern Ireland still cost an estimated £1.7M last year.

The decrease in Northern Ireland is greater than the UK average drop of 9.3 per cent in 2021 and signs so far this year look like Northern Ireland is curbing countryside crime.

NFU Mutual claims indications suggest the first quarter of 2022 has seen thieves in England, Scotland and Wales making up for time lost over the pandemic, but in Northern Ireland the reduction in rural theft continued.

While the cost of rural crime continues to fall, rural communities are urged to remain vigilant
While the cost of rural crime continues to fall, rural communities are urged to remain vigilant
While the cost of rural crime continues to fall, rural communities are urged to remain vigilant

However, shipping delays and the effects of Covid and Brexit have contributed to low supply and a rise in demand for quad bikes. Knowing that thieves were keen to capitalise on growing waiting lists and soaring market values, NFU Mutual invested in a security marking scheme in Northern Ireland to mark 200 quads at risk of theft.

In its role as a member of the Rural Crime Partnership, NFU Mutual also provided Selecta DNA security marking kits so that farmers could protect their belongings with forensic marking solution.

Martin Malone, Northern Ireland Manager for NFU Mutual, said: “We’re really encouraged by the decrease in rural theft last year. Our investment in security marking initiatives and work with key partners including the police, Ulster Farmers’ Union and rural community are delivering results.

“However, we cannot afford to be complacent and with the cost of living crisis, we must do all we can to prevent crime in the countryside. With prices of essential farm equipment such as tractors and quads rising fast, and the cost of diesel soaring over the past year, there’s little doubt that criminals will be trying to steal from farms.

“We also know that essentials of rural living like heating oil tanks will only become more attractive to thieves as costs rise. A recent poll by NFU Mutual reveals that 89 per cent of respondents believe inflation will lead to an increase in rural crime.”

Laura O’Neill, representing the Rural Crime Partnership, commented: “As a partnership we welcome the news that the cost of rural crime has fallen, however, we understand that crime and theft can have a devastating impact on a farm business.

“That’s why we continue to work as a partnership to address issues of concern in a bid to prevent crime in rural communities. Representatives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Ulster Farmers’ Union, NFU Mutual, Department of Justice, Police and Community Safety Partnership, Federation of Small Businesses and Young Farmers’ Union work collaboratively so we can share important information, raise awareness and respond to emerging crime trends in a timely manner to support and keep our farming communities safe.”

Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, William Irvine, said it is “positive” to see the cost of rural crime decreasing in Northern Ireland, however, at the root of the crimes that did occur are farming families who have “suffered financially and emotionally” because of a criminal intrusion on their farm.

“Figures are lower, but farms are still being targeted by thefts and we cannot become complacent as they will be on the lookout for their next attack,” he added.

“With the cost of living crisis and the darker evenings approaching, I urge all farmers to remain vigilant.

“Lock away all farm machinery and vehicles, especially those of high value, and never leave a tractor or quad sitting unattended with the keys in the ignition. Record details of all farm machinery, take photographs and consider investing in tracking systems. “Rural crime initiatives such as trailer marking and the freeze branding of livestock are there for farmers to avail of.

“We would like to thank NFU Mutual for investing in security marking of quads which are commonly targeted by thefts.”

Martin Malone added: “As a mutual working on behalf of our members in rural communities across Northern Ireland, we understand the anxiety and disruption caused by crime, with many farmers and rural homeowners feeling vulnerable due to their isolated location.”

Upper Bann MP and DUP DEFRA spokesperson, Carla Lockhart, has urged rural communities to remain vigilant.

Ms Lockhart commented: “The reduction in rural crime in Northern Ireland over the last year is welcome. This is reflective of a greater awareness in rural communities of the threat of crime, and subsequent steps taken to protect property.

“Credit must also go to the PSNI and local Policing and Community Safety Partnerships for their pro-active approach to deterring rural crime.”

She continued: “Of course more can always be done. Vigilance is vital in tackling criminals, and the Farm Watch scheme is an effective tool in making our rural communities safer.

“It is easy to sign up to and the benefits for members are clear. Securing property and machinery is also important, and with ongoing improvement in technology it is also worthwhile to explore how high value items can have trackers fitted, or marked through trailer or quad marking schemes that many local PCSPs promote across Northern Ireland.

“I know of several examples of machinery being retrieved because of trackers or markings. We want Northern Ireland to be a safe place to live and to do business, in urban and rural communities. My hope is that the next 12 months will see a further reduction in rural crime,” the MP ended.

New advice on protecting rural property to avoid becoming a victim of rural crime is being made available to country people in NFU Mutual’s 2022 Rural Crime report and the insurer’s latest advice videos.