RURAL crime in Shropshire is rising, and last year it cost the local economy an estimated £1m, up from £690,000 in 2012 – a rise of almost half (45%) in 2013.
The figures are part of the NFU Mutual’s UK-wide Rural Crime Survey which shows the nationwide cost of rural crime totalled an estimated £44.5m in 2013 – a rise of 5.2%. The new figure reverses a fall of 19% in 2012.
Quad bikes, heating oil and red diesel account for the most common items targeted by thieves in Shropshire over the last 12 months.
Staff in NFU Mutual offices in rural communities around the country say they are seeing many customers suffer repeat crimes, or have high-value items stolen.
While high-value thefts may be highly organised, the number of tools stolen shows that opportunistic thieves continue to target gardens and outbuildings.
Simon Latter, NFU Mutual branch manager in Shrewsbury, said rural crime is very patchy and sporadic - but it can happen anywhere.
“There are criminal groups taking advantage of people with a relaxed view about security,” he said.
“There are people out there in the criminal world making a living from it.”
He said the number of members making claims is an indicator, and NFU Mutual has a vested interest in warning people, as if they pay out less, they can charge members less for premiums.
Mr Latter added that NFU Mutual funds two police officers based nationally who are specifically involved in the recovery of large agricultural equipment.
More common are thefts of smaller items such as chainsaws which are readily saleable, he added.
He said that security on new tractors is now much improved, with individual electric coded keys, but criminals have moved to stealing not-so-new tractors which are still worth tens of thousands of pounds.
“I would advise people to take relevant security measures if they feel they have machinery at risk,” said Mr Latter.
“Keep padlocks in good order with shielded access, and keys out of tractors and locked away. It also helps to look at your farm and see the ways a thief could access equipment.
“It may be quite rare, but when a major theft happens it can be devastating for businesses and families.”