The cost of rural theft in the UK shot up by nearly a quarter last year as highly organised gangs of criminals continued to plague the countryside.
NFU Mutual has released its annual rural crime report today (1 August), showing that rural crime cost the UK an estimated £49.5m in 2022, up from £40.5m the previous year.
The UK cost of GPS theft increased by 15% to £1.8m in 2022. However, the problem has sharply escalated in the first four months of 2023, with the crime doubling to over £500,000 compared to the same period last year.
Last year, quad and ATV theft reported to NFU Mutual cost £3m nationally, a 34% rise on the previous year.
Meanwhile, the UK cost of livestock theft rose 8.7% in 2022, totalling an estimated £2.7 million.
Claims reported regularly involve over 50 sheep being taken in a single raid, which has a devastating impact on breeding lines as well as causing worry for farmers about the welfare of the stolen animals.
The NFU said the huge increase in criminal activity was significantly impacting farm businesses.
The union's vice president, David Exwood said: “Over the past 18 months highly organised gangs of criminals have continued to plague the British countryside.
“The huge increase we’ve seen in criminal activity is significantly impacting farm businesses and farming families both financially and emotionally, with many rural communities left feeling vulnerable and intimidated.
"All at a time when the industry is facing numerous other pressures, not least soaring production costs."
Following months of lobbying between the NFU, NFU Mutual, government and other industry organisations, the Equipment Theft Prevention Bill recently gained Royal Assent.
This new legislation gives the Home Secretary wider powers to make regulations that will deter the theft and resale of quad bikes and ATVs.
Fitting immobilisers and adding forensic markings will also ensure that owner details are registered to help make these essential farm vehicles less attractive for criminals to steal.
But the NFU said there also needed to be much more of a collaborative approach to tackle rural crime.
Mr Exwood said: "The National Rural Crime Unit is a great example of farmers, policymakers and police forces working together effectively at national and local level to examine ways of how UK farming businesses can be protected from criminal gangs.”