North's rural crime bill rises to £2.6m
RURAL crime is on the rise in Northern Ireland, with the bill totalling £2.6 million last year.
The latest figures from insurer NFU Mutual show that rural crime has increased in cost by 5.3 per cent on 2016, with quad bikes and ATVs (all terrain vehicles), livestock and tractors top of thieves' wish-lists.
The figures form part of NFU Mutual's annual Rural Crime Report, which revealed a UK-wide rise of 13.4 per cent rise in the cost of rural crime last year to almost £45m.
Wales saw the sharpest rise in the cost of rural crime, reporting a 41 per cent jump on the previous year. Meanwhile, the north east was the only region in England which reported a fall - of 6.5 per cent. Scotland also experienced a 3.8 per cent drop in the cost of rural crime.
Martin Malone, NFU Mutual sales manager in Northern Ireland, said:
“There is widespread concern in Northern Ireland that a new breed of brazen criminals are targeting the countryside and they are overcoming electronic security measures to steal expensive equipment and vehicles.”
The report reveals that in some parts of the country farmers are being forced to combine medieval methods with high-tech security to combat modern-day crime. Earth banks, stockade fences and high-security single access points are helping fortify their farms against criminals who use 4 x 4 vehicles to get onto farm land to commit crimes and evade police.
“Adapting centuries-old security with high tech solutions is already proving successful in keeping at bay thieves who don't fear being caught on camera and have the skills to overcome electronic security systems,” Mr Malone said.
Farmers are also using hi-tech tracking devices and immobilisers on vehicles, CCTV video, dashcams, motion sensors, infra-red surveillance and SmartWater marking in their farmyards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.
The report also reveals that limited police resources and repeat attacks are the biggest fears for people in rural communities, with many forced to change the way they live and work as a result of rural crime.
“We are working closely with police to identify preventative measures and to educate the rural community on how best to protect their property and possessions.
“Social media, for example, is fast becoming the new eyes and ears of the countryside, strengthening the community ties that help in the reporting and recording of crime and bringing thieves to justice," Mr Malone added.
As the main insurer of the countryside, NFU Mutual has responded to its members' concerns and has invested more than £1.2m to tackle the menace of rural crime.