Agricultural vehicles and outbuildings should be secured and locked 'wherever possible' following several thefts in Aberdeenshire, farmers have been warned.
Vigilance has been urged by the police and NFU Scotland following incidents in the Banff and Peterhead areas of Aberdeenshire.
The union's North East Regional Chair Andrew Connon has made a plea to farmers to ensure tight security this winter.
Rural crime cost the UK £54m in 2019, an increase of almost 9 percent on the previous year.
"Please look out for suspicious vehicles or people and report to Police Scotland on 101 as soon as possible," he said.
“If there is suspicious activity, then please let NFUS Regional Manager, Lorna Paterson know so that we can use text messaging and social media to alert other members in the area.
"We need to work together to minimise and reduce local rural crime.”
There are fears that the darker nights could provide opportunities for thieves to target farms knowing high value items are often kept on the premises.
Crime Reduction Officer PC Richard Russell said farmers should consider how a thief may enter their site and how easy it might be for them to gain entry to buildings and vehicles.
"Discourage a thief from approaching your premises by closing and locking yard gates," he urged, "Ensure adequate lighting covers the yard and doors to outbuildings.
"Several security devices are now on the market which alert and relay live footage of your CCTV to your mobile telephone."
He said to store portable tools such as chain saws, jet washers and welders in a secure locked ‘cage’ where possible and ensure any padlocks or chains are of a good quality.
"Thieves might be reluctant to use power tools to cut open heavy locks due to noise created and something that takes time to remove will also act as a deterrent," PC Russell said.
"Farmers are busy individuals who work long hours, but it is important to have a daily routine of locking outbuildings and securing vehicles at the end of each day.
"Be more controlling over keys, where they are kept and who has access to them."
He added: "Speak to your neighbours and encourage each other to report any suspicious activity. If something feels not quite right – it probably isn’t."
Lastly, he encouraged people living and working in rural areas to sign up to receive crime alerts by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Alert scheme.