£3.6m bill as crime gangs hit Yorkshire farmers

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THE MULTI-MILLION pound cost of crime in rural Yorkshire is revealed today amid fears the region is increasingly being targeted by organised gangs stealing high-value machinery to ship abroad.

Rural crime cost the region £3.6m in 2013, a six per cent rise from the previous year, according to a UK-wide survey by insurer NFU Mutual based on annual claims data.

The most common items targeted by thieves in Yorkshire over the last 12 months were tools, quad bikes and machinery such as hay balers and ploughs.

And the toll varied in different parts of the region, totalling £1.5m and £1.2m in North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire respectively, but only £560,000 in South Yorkshire and £350,000 in East Yorkshire.

Nationwide the cost of rural crime totalled an estimated £44.5m in 2013, a rise of 5.2 per cent, coming after a fall of 19 per cent in 2012.

The NFU Mutual’s Ripon branch manager Andrew Webster said: “The cost of claims is increasing as a result of more high-value items being stolen. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant and fight rural crime.

“Our experience with people who live and work in rural areas of Yorkshire clearly shows that theft is more than just a setback – it can be devastating for businesses and families.

“One of the rural community’s best assets is its people who can work together to safeguard the local neighbourhood.

“That is why NFU Mutual organises the Country Crime Fighters Awards, a nationwide competition to support and encourage fantastic examples of crime prevention taking place in the countryside.”

Crime in rural areas is thought to have risen last year owing to an increase in the theft of high value items and is becoming the preserve of criminal organisations, many coming in from other parts of the country. Tractors are often stolen with the aim of shipping them out of the country to meet demand in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world.

NFU officials have been as far afield as Cyprus and Australia to retrieve stolen machinery.

Thieves have been known to pose as legitimate workers to aid their criminal schemes, and in one instance two uniformed drivers arrived in a low-loader in the middle of the day before taking a tractor away.

Gangs will sometimes carry out reconnaissance at farms they intend to target by turning up and asking for scrap metal or pretending to be lost.

After taking farm vehicles they will often leave them in a nearby location to check whether a tracking device has been installed before shipping them overseas.

Quad bikes are the second most commonly stolen items in Yorkshire and police in Hambleton and Richmondshire have recently issued a warning to residents following a spate of quad bike thefts.

Rural crime is a particular issue in North Yorkshire, where half of all burglaries and a third of total crimes are committed by

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