Rural crime costs Welsh farms £1.7m a year, says survey

Criminals targeting farms in Wales have stolen equipment, fuel and livestock worth £1.7m in one year, according to a survey.

This was despite insurers NFU Mutual saying Wales had seen a reduction in crime on farms of 48% from 2009.

Tools, quad bikes and oil or diesel are the top targets for thieves in Wales, with livestock lower down on the list.

The survey showed concern that the countryside was difficult to police, with lax attitudes to security.

The NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey is based on claims handled by the company's branch offices throughout the UK during 2010.

Nearly two thirds of its branches across the UK reported an increase in claims in 2010.

When asked about the factors fuelling rural crime, 41% of branches said it was due to sparse areas being difficult to police, with 32% claiming there was less chance of thieves being seen.

23% of branches believed that a relaxed attitude to security was also a factor.

Meanwhile, farms close to the motorway network were more vulnerable to high value tractor thefts.

Farmer Richard Isaac, from Ynysybwl, Rhonnda Cynon Taf, was targeted by thieves in 2009.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "Two bikes in total, all my workshop machinery, all my tools, everything [were stolen].

"It's not until a few months later that you realise other bits and pieces have been pinched too."

He added that neighbours should be alert for anyone "eyeing the place up" during the day, driving up to farms and looking for items to steal.

Effective deterrents

David Harris, NFU Mutual agent in Cowbridge, said smaller items of equipment were particularly vulnerable.

"Highly organised thieves don't just target tractors, Land Rovers and farm machinery," he said.

Image caption Smaller vehicles like quad bikes are particularly vulnerable to thieves

"They can also make money from stealing and selling smaller items like quad bikes, sheep handling equipment and power tools that can be stolen and sold on in the blink of an eye."

He advises farmers to lock tools and quad bikes away when not being used, and mark them if possible so they can be identified if recovered.

"It's all about taking small steps to make life much harder for rural criminals," he said.

"Making outbuildings more secure is an effective deterrent and taking the time to mark your more valuable items will make it much easier to trace the criminal and return your property should it ever get stolen."

A string of Farm Watch schemes have been set up across north and mid Wales in recent years to combat rural crime.

Farmers and other residents are urged to report suspicious activity to the police and each other through a text message alert system.

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