Winter crime epidemic could be on the way, rural insurer warns

NFU Mutual advises farmers to increase security when clocks go back on 30th October, amid fears that the cost-of-living crisis could see farm vehicles targeted by thieves.

Darker nights combined with the cost of living crisis could lead to an increase in thefts.

A recent poll by NFU Mutual revealed 89% of respondents believe inflation will lead to an increase in rural crime. Top targets for rural thieves, according to claims data, are farm vehicles, including tractors, quad bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) pick-up trucks, and Land Rover Defenders.

This year trailers are also being stolen in large numbers, the insurer says.

Increases in the prices of diesel, heating oil, fertiliser and machinery are making farms more attractive targets for criminals. Large-scale fuel theft is plaguing farms, with reports of tank raiders stealing over 1,000 litres in recent weeks. Thieves are also continuing to steal expensive tractor GPS systems.

High food prices could also lead to a resurgence of livestock rustling, making it vital for stock markings to be clear and stock regularly checked through winter months, NFU Mutual advised.

Rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “Pre-Covid, NFU Mutual would see farm theft costs increase in the last three months of the year when dark nights and bad weather provided cover for criminals to get on to farms unseen.

“This year we’re very concerned that rising inflation and the energy crisis could be the catalyst for an epidemic of crime in the countryside.

“We’re continuing to provide financial support for prevention initiatives because we know crime is a huge worry for farmers and their families.

“Knowing that criminals are watching farms like hawks to spot opportunities to steal causes high levels of anxiety and makes it difficult for farming families to live a normal life.

“Strong security measures do deter thieves but need regularly updating to remain effective as thieves are adept at finding ways to defeat them.

“As the clocks go back it’s a good time to look at your farm from the perspective of a would-be thief and take action to put new measures in place if you spot weaknesses.

“Because every farm is different, each one needs a different approach, often combining physical security on gates and doors, electronic devices such as alarms, lights, immobilisers and trackers, and practical steps such as hiding valuable kit out of sight. Local farm watch groups and WhatsApp networks are also very useful to keep up to date with local crime trends.”

New advice on protecting rural property to avoid becoming a victim of rural crime is available as the NFU Mutual’s 2022 Rural Crime report and the insurer’s latest advice videos.

NFU Mutual’s winter farm security guide:

  • Lock outbuildings at night and carry out regular security checks during colder months
  • Close and lock yard gates at night to deter drive-through thieves
  • Ensure security lighting, intruder alarms and cameras are working correctly
  • Don’t leave vehicles and implements where they can be easily seen from nearby roads by criminals searching for theft opportunities
  • Never leave keys in machines when not in use
  • Remove GPS systems where possible and lock them in a secure place overnight
  • Store diesel and heating oil in tanks away from the public gaze and consider a fuel tank alarm
  • Store fertiliser in a secure building
  • Keep portable tools such as chain saws, jet washers and welders in a secure locked ‘cage’
  • Regularly review farm insurance to make sure everything is adequately covered as prices rise
  • Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep updated about local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings
  • Mark tools, equipment and implements to deter thieves and aid recovery by police
  • Use tracking devices, immobilisers and CESAR-marking on tractors and quadbikes to deter thieves
  • Use mechanical devices to anchor down quads
  • Ensure livestock makings are clear and regularly check stock numbers
  • ‘Know what you own’ – record all makes, models, serial numbers and photograph kit to help police investigate and aid an insurance claim
  • Ask neighbours to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and report them to police.

© Farmers Guide 2024. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use Privacy Policy

Website Design by Unity Online

We have moved!

We’ve now moved to our new office in Stowmarket. If you wish to contact us please use our new address:

Unit 3-4 Boudicca Road, Suffolk Central Business Park, Stowmarket, IP14 1WF

Thank you,

The Farmers Guide Team