NFU Mutual has revealed that rural crime cost the UK economy £37.8 million in 2014, down from £44.5 million in 2013 – representing a 15% fall.
But despite an overall decline in the cost of rural crime in every UK region, several types of crime have continued to rise in parts of the UK, with quad bikes proving particularly attractive to thieves.
Meanwhile the cost of livestock theft nationally has remained stubbornly high with several regions recording increases. The data follows a spate of high-value livestock thefts across the country, and the rollout of a national livestock theft reduction scheme sponsored by NFU Mutual.
In a survey of NFU Mutual’s branch offices across the UK, 56% of respondents indicated that awareness of crime is rising in rural communities. The survey also reveals that rural communities are employing ever more sophisticated means of protecting themselves, including the installation of alarm and CCTV systems.
According to the survey, the most commonly targeted items over the last twelve months were fuel, tools and quad bikes. Essex and Kent are the UK’s worst affected counties in 2014 while in Scotland the cost of quad bike theft has increased by around 80%.
And despite an overall decline in rural crime, the survey reveals that many in rural communities feel that thieves are also becoming more sophisticated.
And further highlighting the changing nature of rural crime, 63% of those surveyed said that cybercrime is a growing problem for rural communities while NFU Mutual’s most recent claims data also shows thieves are taking advantage of new targets such as solar panels.
The survey also revealed that vehicle theft, burglary and livestock theft are the most prevalent crimes being experienced in Britain’s rural communities.
Commenting on the findings, Matthew Scott, Chief Claims Manager at NFU Mutual said: “That our figures show an overall decline in the cost of rural crime during the last 12 months is welcome news and reflects the huge efforts being made by communities and others to tackle this problem. Initiatives like the Lancashire Livestock Scheme and CESAR tracking for agricultural vehicles are having a real impact and making life increasingly difficult for rural criminals.
“That said, problem areas remain. Levels of livestock theft for example are stubbornly high and quad bikes continue to be targeted by criminals with several regions of the country recording significant increases in the cost of quad bike theft.
“So, while today’s survey contains some good news, it also highlights the need for rural communities to remain vigilant and put security at the forefront of their minds.”
To-date, NFU Mutual has invested more than £600,000 funding police specialist units to coordinate activity on agricultural vehicle crime. This has helped reduce tractor theft by a third from a record £10 million in 2010 to £5.4 million in 2014.
The Mutual also sponsors the Lancashire Livestock Initiative, a scheme launched in 2014 to bring police and communities together to beat livestock thieves, and provide safe spaces for stolen livestock. The scheme is now being replicated in Yorkshire, Cumbria and other livestock rearing counties across the country.
For more information and advice on how to beat rural crime in your area visit www.nfumutual.co.uk/ruralcrime
Top 10 items targeted by thieves in 2014 (2013 rankings in brackets)
1. Tools (Tools)
2. ATVs/Quad bikes (ATVs/Quad bikes)
3. Oil/Diesel (Oil/Diesel)
4. Machinery (Machinery)
5. Livestock (Garden equipment)
6. Garden equipment (Livestock)
7. Trailers (Tractors)
8. Equestrian transport and equipment (Trailers)
9. Bicycles (Vehicles)
10. Personal effects/tractors (Equestrian equipment)
Cost of rural crime by country in 2014
England £31.1m (£36.3m)
Northern Ireland £2.4m (£3.9m)
Scotland £1.8m (£1.9m)
Wales £1.7m (£2m)
Top 10 UK counties by estimated cost of rural crime in 2014 (last year’s figures in brackets)
1. Essex £2.4m (£2m)
2. Kent £2.2m (£1.8m)
3. Lincolnshire £1.8m (£2.2m)
4. Hampshire £1.7m (£970,000)
5. Cambridgeshire £1.7m (£2.4m)
6. Lancashire £1.4m (£1.7m)
7. Somerset £1.1m (£1.2m)
8. Suffolk £1.1m (£1.4m)
9. North Yorkshire £1m (£1.5m)
10. Gloucestershire £1m (£790,000)