At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the rustling of sheep increased by almost 15% compared to the previous year.
According to preliminary data from NFU Mutual, there was an increase in reports of theft of cattle – mainly sheep and lambs – in April.
Farmers also experienced an “influx” of migrants to their land, while reports of dog attacks on farm animals increased during the outbreak, the insurer said.
It also warned of fears that rural crime could escalate if the economic effects of the crisis hit.
Another “major concern” is the theft of GPS devices for tractors, which normally cost between £ 8,000 and £ 10,000, NFU Mutual said, adding that this has “become a highly valued item on rural thieves’ shopping lists, especially during the ban by Covid-19. ” where smaller, high quality items have been used to meet overseas demand. “
The news comes when the company released an annual report showing that rural crime costs rose nearly 9% in 12 months to £ 54m last year – the highest in eight years.
Over the past year, rural crime has risen in every region and country in the UK as criminal gangs target expensive tractors, quad bikes and large numbers of animals. This emerges from research based on the number of theft claims submitted to the company.
The largest percentage increase was recorded in Scotland (44%), although the cost of rural crime remains below the UK average.
The second highest regional increase was 18% in Northern Ireland, followed by the east of England (16.9%).
The lowest regional increase was in the north east of England, which grew by 0.4% according to the NFU Mutual report.
The three areas most affected by the cost of rural crime were Lincolnshire (£ 2.8m), Essex (£ 2.7m) and North Yorkshire (£ 2.2m).
A second consecutive increase (nearly 25% increase to £ 9.3m) due to theft of agricultural vehicles was driven by organized criminal gangs targeting expensive tractors and quad bikes.
The demand for expensive farm kits overseas has also fueled the increase. According to the report, a joint operation between the company and the National Vehicle Crime Agency earlier this year recovered five vehicles in Poland worth more than £ 100,000.
Cattle theft costs also rose 9% last year to GBP 3m.
The report said: “Well-organized gangs that take in a large number of sheep that are believed to enter the food chain illegally are driving the increase.
“A flood of sheep slaughtered and slaughtered on farm fields also contributed to the increase.”
Rebecca Davidson of NFU Mutual said that in addition to financial costs, the crimes “have a serious impact on the mental well-being of people living in rural and often isolated areas”.
She added: “There are concerns that the impact will be felt more strongly this year as farmers have worked tirelessly to feed the nation and many rural communities have been put under additional pressure by the challenges of Covid-19 . “
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the National Rural Crime Network, said: “It is alarming to see that these are the highest registered costs since 2013 and highlights that crime remains a significant and growing challenge for it represents our rural communities and businesses.
“Although this report contains strong numbers on the cost of crime, this is only the tip of the iceberg as we know from our research that many crimes are not reported in rural communities – especially business owners because they do not believe the crime will do this. ” be taken seriously or everything will be done. “