Quads and horse boxes top thieves’ list as rural crime hits £2.8m in Northern Ireland
RURAL crime cost Northern Ireland £2.8 million last year, a rise of 3.9 per cent on 2017, according to insurer NFU Mutual.
It says quads, livestock, trailers and horse boxes have topped thieves' wish list across the north.
And in the UK as a whole, rural crime cost £50 million, an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year and the highest overall cost in seven years.
Martin Malone, a NFU Mutual regional manager in Northern Ireland, said: “One of the most alarming findings from this year's report is that fear of crime is changing life in the countryside.
“From constant reports of thefts and suspicious vehicles touring the countryside and rural criminals regularly staking out farms, country people feel they are under siege.
“The report further reveals that repeat attacks are a big fear for people in rural communities, with many forced to change the way they live and work as a result of rural crime.”
He added: “Repeat attacks are causing widespread anxiety and exacerbating the problems of rural isolation among farmers who often work alone all day. Some farmers are so concerned about the risk of criminal attack they can no longer leave the farm with their family to attend local agricultural shows.
“Farmers are combining modern technology with physical fortifications to try and keep one step ahead of the thieves. We're seeing electronic devices like infra-red beams which send alerts to mobile phones and geo-fencing, which triggers an alarm if tractors go beyond farm boundaries.
“These technologies are proving to be effective weapons in the fight against rural crime. This is increasingly important because today's determined thieves come armed with battery-powered angle grinders which can cut through chains and padlocks in seconds to access farm buildings and tool sheds.”
He said NFU advises people living and working in the countryside to regularly evaluate their current security measures, making improvements where necessary, and report any suspicious activity to the police and local farm watch schemes.
The report showed that quads and all terrain vehicles are disappearing from farms in large numbers – thanks to being easy to transport and lack of registration plates .The cost of such theft claims to NFU Mutual rose from £2.3m in 2017 to £2.6m last year.
The cost of agricultural vehicle theft claims rose by 26 per cent from £5.9m in 2017 to £7.4m in 2018. Thieves are increasingly cloning the identity of tractors to make detection more difficult. They are stealing expensive tractors costing over £50,000 for export to developed counties and small, older tractors to export to third world countries.
NFU said the cost of livestock theft increased to £2.5m last year. It says thefts of large numbers of lambs are raising concerns that stock is being stolen for slaughter and processing outside regulated abattoirs before illegally entering the food chain.
Author: Gary McDonald Business Editor