Farmers urged to step up security as clocks go back

NFU Mutual claims data reveals October to December was the costliest quarter for the last two years
NFU Mutual claims data reveals October to December was the costliest quarter for the last two years

Farmers have been urged to step up security as nights are set to become darker when the clocks go back on Sunday 25 October.

Rural crime totalled £54 million last year – an eight-year high, as thieves continued to target high value equipment and machinery.

Claims data by the NFU Mutual reveals that October to December was the costliest quarter for the last two years.

The combination of dark winter nights and fewer people out and about after dark could lead to an increase in rural theft this winter, the insurer warns.

While some types of rural crime fell during the initial Covid-19 lockdown, countryside crime is now increasing in many parts of the UK as the economic impact bites.

The latest crime trend to hit UK farms is the theft of expensive tractor GPS systems, with incidents being carried out in night-time raids.

Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said the longer hours of darkness presented opportunities for criminal activity, particularly in remote rural areas.

“While some types of rural crime fell during the early part of lockdown we’ve seen alarming rises in smaller, more portable items of kit being stolen such as tractor GPS systems.

"The latest breed of criminal is using a range of tactics, often staking out farms by day to return late at night and smash into tractor cabs under the cover of darkness.

"The damage and disruption to agricultural activities is causing huge anxiety in the farming community and we are working with police and manufacturers to make it harder for criminals to steal from our farms and villages.”

NFU Mutual’s Risk Management Services Ltd (RMS) provides advice to farms across the country to manage risks including rural theft.

It has prepared a winter security checklist and podcast to help farmers ensure their property is protected to avoid becoming a victim of theft.

Andy Manson, managing director of RMS, said thieves change tactics as nights become darker, targeting outbuildings and taking advantage of bad weather.

“We advise farmers to look at their farm through the eyes of a thief and start with the yard and entrance," he added.

"Hinge-capped gates which can’t be lifted off and good quality chains and padlocks are the first step in securing the property.

"Address what you have on display in the yard and don’t give away any hints to would-be thieves of what might be inside.

"Also target-harden your valuable objects, this might involve creating a security cage for high-value items including tools and quads."

How can I improve farm security?

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services has issued farmers and landowners a winter rural security checklist:

• Close and lock yard gates at night to deter drive-through thieves

• Check existing lighting, alarms and cameras are working correctly and update if necessary

• Lock outbuildings at night and carry out your usual security checks in winter

• Avoid leaving vehicles and implements where they can be easily seen by criminals scouting for theft opportunities

• Consider infra-red beam alarms, CCTV and floodlighting to protect farm yards

• Store portable tools such as chain saws, jet washers and welders in a secure locked ‘cage’

• 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 with your post code to deter thieves and aid recovery by police

• Know what you own - record all makes, models and photograph kit to help police investigate and aid an insurance claim

• Use trackers, immobilisers and CESAR-mark tractors and ATVs to deter thieves

• Consider mechanical devices to anchor down quads

• Remove keys when machines are not in use and store them in a secure cabinet where possible