East Yorkshire farms 'see rise in livestock thefts'

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Farms in East Yorkshire saw a 36% rise last year in the number of livestock thefts compared to 2010, according to an insurance company.

Specialist agricultural insurer NFU Mutual said it had received 360 claims for livestock rustling in the region in 2011, compared to 264 in 2010.

The insurer said the increase in meat prices was behind the rise in thefts.

The average price of lamb chops rose from £10.39 per kilogramme in July 2008 to £14.24 in July 2011.

Peter O'Reilly, an agent for NFU Mutual in the East Riding, said that criminal gangs were "systematically targeting" farms across the region.

"They're highly organised thieves, sometimes stealing to order," he said.

'Relies on community'

"Rural areas are hard to police and they're seen as easy targets for criminals."

Supt Christine Kelk, Humberside Police's superintendent of operations, said the force deployed a significant amount of resources in rural areas to try to combat crime.

She said the police had developed partnerships with local authorities and other groups to try to tackle countryside crime.

The officer highlighted initiatives such as Country Watch, which allows farmers to send text messages reporting suspicious activity to the police and other members of the scheme.

"A lot of it relies on the community to report to us suspicious activity," she said.

"So, we've actually developed quite a wide network of mechanisms for the community to tell us about suspicious activity, and then we can respond to it as quickly as we can."

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