Yorkshire countryside set to be a target for rural crime as cases start to spike following pandemic, NFU Mutual warns

Thieves have been making up for lost time as new figures reveal that the cost of rural crime in the UK has risen by more than 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2022.

For two years following the start of the pandemic figures had fallen, however, Yorkshire, the North East and the rest of the UK’s rural regions are being warned that they are targets once again and crimes are on the rise.

Farm vehicles remain a top target as Land Rover Defender, quad bike and trailer thefts continue to plague the countryside while rustling has also become more lucrative for criminal gangs - with the cost of living crisis said to be a major factor behind it.

Farmers are being urged to boost security as fuel and machinery prices soar and rural insurer, NFU Mutual has supplied £430,000 funding to help police and the countryside fight rural crime.

New figures reveal that the cost of rural crime in the UK has risen by more than 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2022.

The latest state of play has been revealed in NFU Mutual’s 2022 Rural Crime Report which was published yesterday.

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Land Rover Defender owners battled a barrage of crime as the rocketing value of second-hand cars and replacement parts saw thieves stealing the popular British 4x4 vehicles and stripping them down, with the cost of claims shooting up by 87 per cent to £2.6m nationally.

Rustling has also become more lucrative for criminal gangs, and latest analysis shows farm animals worth an estimated £2.4m were stolen in 2021. Soaring food prices could mean that livestock thefts now increase, raising concerns about food security, animal welfare and people’s health due to stolen animals being slaughtered in unhygienic conditions.

The number of fuel theft claims received by NFU Mutual fell from 2020 to 2021, but with record high prices for diesel and heating oil, NFU Mutual claims data from the first half of this year indicates the frequency and cost of fuel theft claims have more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021.

Dave Smith, NFU Mutual regional manager for the North East, said: “Our latest claims figures warn rural theft is quickly gathering momentum as criminals make up for time lost over the past two pandemic years.

“With prices of essential farm equipment such as tractors and quads rising fast and the cost of diesel soaring over the past year, there’s little doubt that criminals will be trying to steal from farms.

“We also know that essentials of rural living like heating oil tanks will only become more attractive to thieves as costs rise. Crime in the countryside causes high levels of anxiety and disruption, with many farmers and rural homeowners feeling vulnerable due to their isolated location.”