Thieves return to the countryside

The cost of rural crime fell by 9.3% to an estimated £40.5m across the UK last year, the second annual fall since the start of the pandemic. The bad news is the 40% increase in the first three months of this year. Farm vehicles remain a top target and thefts of Land Rover Defenders, ATVs and trailers continue to plague the countryside.

by Steven Vale

2 Aug 2022

The cost of agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual remained above £9.0m last year, the top three affected counties being Lincolnshire, Essex and Kent. Despite last year’s overall decrease, signs that rural criminals were returning started to show towards the end of 2021 with well-organised gangs continuing to plague farmyards stealing high-value farm machinery.

There was a sharp rise in the cost of Land Rover Defender theft in 2021. Stolen vehicles and dismantled parts were responsible for a loss of £2.6m, an increase in value of 87% on the previous year, with the number of thefts up by a third. Current trends suggest these numbers will increase further in 2022, and although the rural insurer saw the cost of stolen ATVs fall 11% to £2.2m in 2021, almost half of those thefts took place from September to December.

Trailer theft is a major problem with claims totalling £1.75m in 2021 – up almost 5.0% on 2020. Often left in fields and farmyards for long periods with little security, trailers are difficult to trace but easy to sell on without documentation, making them a favourite target of rural thieves.

As diesel and heating oil prices rocket, NFU Mutual claims data from the first half of this year indicates the frequency and cost of fuel theft claims have more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021. In a new poll of the rural community, almost half of respondents said that fuel theft was now their greatest crime concern.

“With prices of essential farm equipment such as tractors and ATVs 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,” comments Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual. “We also know that essentials of rural living like heating oil tanks will only become more attractive to thieves as costs rise, so we’re advising rural people to review their security.”

New advice on protecting rural property to avoid becoming a victim of rural crime is available in:

Rural Crime Report 2022 - Download Free Report | NFU Mutual