Cumbria Times
Weekend Edition
2:00 AM 2nd August 2022

Cost Of Rural Crime In Cumbria Falls By 30%

Photo by George Hiles on Unsplash
Photo by George Hiles on Unsplash
As it publishes its Rural Crime Report today (August 2), leading rural insurer NFU Mutual reveals that the estimated cost of rural theft in Cumbria was just under £730,000 in 2021, a fall of 30% from the previous year.

However, claims indications for the first quarter of this year show a rise in the cost of rural crime in both the North West and England as a whole.Initial estimates from the insurer reveal the first quarter of 2022 has seen thieves making up for time lost over the pandemic, with UK costs over 40% higher than the same period last year.
“Rural crime has become a serious problem in Cumbria, causing untold anxiety to farmers.
And although nationally NFU Mutual saw the cost of stolen quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) fall 11% to £2.2m in 2021, almost half of those thefts took place from September to December. According to NFU Mutual claims data, Cumbria was the most targeted county for quad theft last year as criminals turned their sights back to these easily portable, hot-ticket items to capitalise on growing waiting lists and soaring market values.

To help tackle crime in Cumbria, NFU Mutual is supporting the Partners in Preventing Farm Crime project which trains young farmers to identify farm rural crime risks and put in place practical security actions to prevent them from becoming victims of crime.

The initiative is the brainchild of Joe Murray QPM, Chair of the Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association (CNWA). A retired police officer, he had seen NFU Mutual’s Rural Crime advice on how communities could work together to beat rural crime. He came up with the idea of involving young farmers club members to spread the message and worked with Cumbria YFC County Chairman, Robbie Tuer, to bring the scheme to fruition. Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association, Crimestoppers, Cumbria Police, the Police Crime Prevention Academy, Police & Crime Commissioner and NFU Mutual are providing resources, advice and finance to deliver the scheme across the country.

Michael Barnes, Cumbria NFU Mutual Agent, said:
“Our latest UK claims figures warn that rural theft is quickly gathering momentum as criminals make up for time lost over the past two pandemic years. We’re urging rural people to review their security, to help prevent crime and disruption.

“With prices of essential farm equipment such as quads and tractors rising fast and the cost of diesel soaring over the past year, there’s little doubt that criminals will be trying to steal from farms. We also know that essentials of rural living like heating oil tanks will only become more attractive to thieves as costs rise. A recent poll by NFU Mutual reveals that 89% of respondents believe inflation will lead to an increase in rural crime.

“NFU Mutual is responding by helping those living and working in rural areas to put in place effective security measures and by continuing to provide major support to enable dedicated resources to tackle crime. We’re pleased to be supporting the Partners in Preventing Farm Crime Project in Cumbria because it brings together police, farmers and local rural communities to make a difference.”

Joe Murray QPM, Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Chair said:
“Rural crime has become a serious problem in Cumbria, causing untold anxiety to farmers. When NFU Mutual published its Rural Crime Report last year and gave advice on bringing rural communities together through groups, it really struck a chord.

“I thought young farmers’ clubs could be the way forward because they are so well connected, have tremendous enthusiasm, and regularly visit other farms where they can pass on security advice.

“The young farmers’ clubs have really got behind the idea and the support from Crimestoppers, Cumbria Police and the Police Crime Prevention Academy have enabled us to deliver a scheme with excellent resources, to help farmers put in place strong security measures.”

Last year around the UK, well-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards stealing high-value farm machinery as the cost of agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual remained at over £9m. Land Rover Defender owners battled a barrage of crime as the rocketing value of second-hand cars and replacement parts saw thieves stealing the iconic British 4x4 vehicles and stripping them down, with the cost of claims shooting up by 87% to £2.6m nationally.

Rustling has also become more lucrative for criminal gangs, and latest analysis shows farm animals worth an estimated £2.4m were stolen in 2021. Soaring food prices could mean that livestock theft now increases, raising concerns about food security, animal welfare and people's health due to stolen animals being slaughtered in unhygienic conditions.

The number of fuel theft claims received by NFU Mutual fell from 2020 to 2021, but with record high prices for diesel and heating oil, NFU Mutual claims data from the first half of this year indicates the frequency and cost of fuel theft claims have more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021. In a new poll of the rural community by NFU Mutual, almost half of respondents (49%) said that fuel theft was now their greatest crime concern.*
The latest crime trends have prompted the insurer to issue urgent advice and a series of videos to help farmers take action to protect their property.

Last year, NFU Mutual invested £430,000 in rural crime initiatives. This includes support for an agricultural vehicle theft unit at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) which recovered stolen vehicles and farm machinery worth £2.6m last year. The unit delivers intelligence, training, and works directly with police forces across the country to combat rural crime, in addition to joint international operations to seize stolen machinery from overseas.

Following increased investment with NaVCIS and one-off grants to help police tackle GPS theft, NFU Mutual saw the cost of this crime fall by almost half to £1.5m in 2021. Without GPS – an essential part of modern farming – harvests can be delayed, and some farmers left unable to work.

New advice on protecting rural property to avoid becoming a victim of rural crime is being made available to country people in NFU Mutual’s 2022 Rural Crime report and the insurer’s latest advice videos.

The cost of rural crime varies across different parts of the country. In the North West, the cost of rural theft fell over 25% in 2021 to £2.8m. Amongst English regions, the Midlands was the worst affected by cost (£8.4m), followed by the South East (£7.5m) and the North East (£6.7m). The Midlands (+1.7%) and the South East (+1.1%) were the only English regions not to see a fall last year.

Michael Barnes, NFU Mutual Agent at Carlisle, added:
“As each farm or home is different, every property needs a different approach to keeping thieves out - and there’s an armoury of measures to help do so, from traditional fortification, to technology using movement sensors, to community information networks.”

NFU Mutual has a dedicated in-house team that works closely with specialist national police units, police forces, the security industry and agricultural machinery manufacturers to share information to assist in crime prevention, recover stolen property and provide security advice.