Insurers urge tougher security for rural firms

Photographer: Callum Bennetts  There has been a number of quad bikes stolen from farms recently.
Photographer: Callum Bennetts There has been a number of quad bikes stolen from farms recently.
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It’s been revealed that quad bikes, tools, oil and diesel topped thieves’ wishlists in a rural crime spree last year.

New research has shown incidents of ‘agri-crime’ in Scotland rose 12 per cent in 2012, costing farmers and rural businesses £2million.

Overall UK rural theft levels fell by 20 per cent last year, but Scotland bucked the trend over the same period.

The figures, based on claims data, have been released to coincide with the publication of the annual NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey.

Unlike other crime reports, the insurers include claims for crimes against homes, farms, commercial premises and vehicles.

Quad bikes were the most targeted item in Scotland, while tools and fuel such as domestic heating oil and red diesel also proved popular with criminals.

Statistics from the survey also suggested the majority of rural crime is planned rather than opportunist.

Rory Murray, NFU Mutual agent in Newtown St Boswells, says that even though rural crime has fallen in the UK, Scotland’s figures show that the problem has not gone away.

“In fact, there have been more thefts in recent times. Much more still needs to be done to thwart rural criminals and minimise the devastating impact of crime in the countryside,” Mr Murray told The Southern this week. “As a mutual organisation owned by, and run for, our members we have a responsibility to work with those in the countryside to improve security and tackle crime.

“In the Borders area we’re starting to see the benefits from communities working hard with the police and wider industry.

“However, people shouldn’t become complacent; they need to make security a priority on their farms, businesses and homes.”

Driving the national reduction in rural crime was a significant fall in claim costs for tractor and quad bike thefts, which accounted for more than one third of all thefts by value.

In contrast, 2012 saw a slight increase in cost levels for livestock theft.

The stealing of garden furniture and ornaments, stone and chemicals has been identified as an emerging trend over the last 12 months and NFU Mutual believes some thefts in particular are likely to be repeated as the criminals return to plunder the replacements.

The results of the survey also indicate that prevention is better than cure, with branches believing high-tech security measures like CCTV and tracker devices, as well as more traditional measures such as locks, are more effective than a greater police presence or tougher sentencing for criminals.

Some of the more unusual measures used by NFU Mutual members include keeping geese to warn of trespassers and installing fog machines to disorientate intruders, and retractable cattle grids.