The cost of rural crime to the Yorkshire region has risen by 1.6 per cent to almost £3.5m a year, according to new figures published by rural insurer NFU Mutual.
Cybercrime is a growing threat, with rural thieves becoming increasingly sophisticated at targeting countryside properties and businesses, the insurer warned.
Rural crime cost the most in North Yorkshire, the region’s biggest county. Despite a fall in the total value of damage done by criminals, rural crime still cost the area more than £1m in 2015 - down from £1.1m a year earlier.
It was in West and South Yorkshire where the cost of rural crime spiralled - up 19 per cent in West Yorkshire to more than £1.4m, and by 12 per cent in South Yorkshire, to just over £600,000.
The picture is much more positive for East Yorkshire - or North Humberside as classified by NFU Mutual - where rural crime cost 31 per cent less in 2015, just topping £404,000.
Nationally, rural crime cost the economy £42.5m, remaining broadly static year on year.
Matthew Gummerson, an agent for NFU Mutual in West Yorkshire, said: “It is disappointing to see levels of rural crime rising. Rural thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and using computers rather than bolt cutters to steal from farms and country properties.”
At last month’s Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate, Malton-based insurer McClarrons held a discussion in which it was detailed that cybercrime was the fastest growing risk to small and medium-sized businesses.
McClarrons reported that in the last year 74 per cent of small organisations had reported a cyber incident.
Mr Gummerson said that rural landowners and law enforcers have had to adapt to the rising cyber menace, saying: “Farmers and police have been working hard to adopt high-tech security measures to tackle the problems which now include cloning tractor identities, advertising non-existent machinery in agricultural publications and stealing the GPS computer systems which are a key part of modern farming.”
According to NFU Mutual, the items most commonly targeted by thieves across Yorkshire over the last 12 months were quad bikes, 4x4s, tractors and farm tools and machinery.
But there has been a shift in the items being targeted from rural homes with garden equipment cited as the biggest growing trend, along with 4x4s.
The insurer’s survey also revealed that social media is now the main resource for sharing information about crime in rural communities, and is used to prevent rural crime, help catch criminals and return stolen goods.
Mr Gummerson added: “Our advice to people living and working in the countryside remains the same; evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police but also community watch schemes.”
Just last month, police officers in East Yorkshire were issued with 44-page rural patrol guides by Humberside Police to help them tackle wildlife and rural crime.
Lincolnshire topped the list of the most targeted counties, where the cost of rural crime topped £2.1m in 2015, a 19 per cent rise in a year.
The same rate of increase was recorded in West Yorkshire, making it the fifth most targeted county in the UK, while North Yorkshire was ranked tenth.
The largest rise in the value of rural crime last year was in Gloucestershire, up 36 per cent.
The top five most prevalent types of countryside crime across the UK were vehicle theft, burglary, rural business and livestock thefts, and vandalism, according to NFU Mutual’s latest figures.