Cost of rural crime continues to rise, says UFU

UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt
UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says farmers and rural dwellers are on high alert as the threat of crime in rural areas continues to plague them.

The comments were made following the publication of NFU Mutual’s rural crime report revealing that the cost of rural crime to Northern Ireland’s rural economy in 2018 increased to £2,757,000.

UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt said the figures again highlight the real threat that rural thieves pose to Northern Ireland’s farmers and rural dwellers.

He added: “With more and more high value items such as tractors, quad bikes, and indeed livestock falling victim to the actions of rural thieves, it is hardly surprising that farmers and rural dwellers feel isolated and anxious on their own farms.”

The UFU says it is concerned that despite PSNI figures showing a decrease in rural crime incidents, the figures released by NFU Mutual suggest that rural crime in Northern Ireland is anything but under control.

Mr Chestnutt said: “So far this year there have been several high value thefts involving tractors as well as a number of large livestock thefts with repeat attacks all too often becoming a reality for many farmers. The financial aspect of rural crime can spell disaster for those affected, threatening livelihoods overnight and often there is a lasting impact on well-being that is difficult to measure.”

Mr Chestnutt says when farmers, the PSNI, and the local community work in collaboration the activities of rural thieves can be stopped.

“I would encourage all farmers and rural dwellers to ensure that all incidences of rural crime and any information anyone may hold in relation to rural crime is reported and shared with the PSNI,” he said.

The UFU says rural crime initiatives such as trailer marking, and the freeze branding of livestock are positive, but members should also consider joining their local Farm Watch scheme.

“Despite these positive public initiatives, more needs to be done. We would encourage farmers to step up security on their farms. While the UFU will continue to lobby the Department of Justice, and its partner agencies, to ensure that when rural thieves are brought before the courts the sentences handed down to them are reflective of the scale and impact of their actions,” said Mr Chestnutt.