Rural crime cost Cambridgeshire more than £1.6million last year, according to a report released by the National Farmers Union (NFU).
The figure forms part of NFU Mutual’s annual rural crime report, published this week, which revealed that despite the county seeing a seven per cent drop overall last year, the cost of rural theft has risen sharply in the first half of 2017.
According to the NFU, early theft claims statistics for the first half of this year show a sharp rise of more than 20 per cent nationally, raising concerns that a new wave of rural crime is hitting the countryside.
The items most commonly targeted by thieves across Cambridgeshire over the last 12 months were oil and diesel, tools and machinery.
James Skelton, NFU Mutual senior agent in Cambridgeshire, said: “Although the figures for rural crime in Cambridgeshire are down, countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.
“In some parts of the county, farmers have to turn their farmyards into fortresses to protect themselves from repeated thieves who are targeting quads, tractors and power tools. They are using tracking devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farm yards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.”
The report recorded the cost of crime in Cambridgeshire as £1,609,305 in 2016, compared to £1,732,174 a year previously.
The report reveals that being ‘staked out’ is the biggest worry for people in rural areas, followed closely by longer police response times in rural areas, according to the insurer. Criminals continue to target Land Rover Defenders, quad bikes, tractors, tools and livestock despite increased security on farms.
Mr Skelton added: “The threat of becoming a victim of rural crime, and regular reports of suspicious characters watching farms is causing high levels of anxiety amongst farmers who know their rural location makes them vulnerable to attacks.
“Our advice to people living and working in the countryside is to regularly evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police and local farm watch schemes.”
Chief Inspector James Sutherland said: “We’re pleased to see the cost of rural crime in Cambridgeshire has decreased by seven per cent. Cambridgeshire is one of the biggest rural areas in the country and we recognise the importance of tackling rural crime and reducing the financial costs associated with it.
“Last year we reformed the Rural Crime Action Team and since then there has been an increase (27 per cent) in the number of crimes reported to us which shows the confidence people have in reporting incidents to us.
“The team are dedicated to combating hare coursing and poaching, as well as using specialist knowledge to deal with other aspects of rural crime including plant/tractor theft, arson, wildlife crime and illegal raves.”