Farms ‘walloped’ as thefts rise by nearly 400 percent

Farm theft of quad bikes.

Farm theft of quad bikes.

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The cost of farm theft has escalated nearly fourfold in the last three years, with £130,000 worth of livestock and machinery stolen from Borders farms last year.

Inspector John Scott told Kelso community councillors last week that the region was being “walloped” by thieves.

Figures show criminals stole £36,000 worth of livestock, quad bikes and other farm machinery and equipment in 2011. In 2012 the figure stood at £86,000 and last year it increased to £132,000 which one official put down, in part, to increased reporting of thefts by farmers.

Inspector Scott told us: “It’s not because it’s easier than other places (that the Borders gets hit), it’s such a rural area and we’ve got so many farms - and it’s big business.

“The eastern part of Berwickshire has been quite bad but generally across the Borders has had big issues at different times of the year,”

Within a week of police launching Operation RAC - a campaign to tackle housebreaking - last month, two people had been charged in connection with break-ins to rural outbuildings and the theft of motorbikes and quad bikes.

Inspector Scott continued: “Quad bikes are the modern equivalent of the horse to farmers. They’re worth £4-5,000 and every farm’s got them and there’s a saleable market: if you steal two quad bikes on a night you’re talking a lot of cash.

“A lot of machinery thefts are through the night, the stuff gets stolen before you get out of your bed.

“The most significant thing farmers can do is try to make it harder for thieves. These people are targeting more often than not quad bikes or machinery but they will steal other stuff - tools, chainsaws, anything that’s got a saleable value. And they think nothing of travelling 2-300 miles to steal.”

Livestock theft can be seasonal he said, “It usually increases in the spring and we are coming into that time in the next two or three months.”

He said an earlier police campaign on livestock theft saw officers detect over £100,000 worth of sheep stolen.

“It’s proper organised crime: you have to have a good quality outlet where you sell the sheep. And whilst ewes are in lamb they’re double their value - it’s an easier way of taking stock and selling the lambs and doubling their money.”

Anyone seeing anyone or anything suspicious should take the registration number of the vehicle and contact police on 101, he said.

New NFU Scotland Lothian and Borders chairman, Stuart McNicol said: “It is worrying that the value of thefts has risen by almost four times in the last few years. It is perhaps a sign of larger machinery being targeted but also that those in rural areas are starting to feel more confident about reporting crime and suspicious activity.

“The majority of the thefts are of transport machinery, and in particular quad bikes. At the end of last year we saw an increase in the thefts of quad bikes in particular. However, we have also seen incidents of fuel and livestock over the last year or two.

“The message remains clear: please be vigilant and take the adequate steps to secure your property.”