Rural crime cost the North East £1million last year, up from £840,000 in 2013, bucking the national trend of a 15 per cent reduction.
Figures from insurer NFU Mutual also show that the cost of rural theft in the Northumbria force area increased from £430,000 to £690,000 in 2014 as thieves across the region continued to target expensive ATVs and farming machinery.
The figures are part of a UK-wide survey by NFU Mutual. The leading rural insurer’s annual Rural Crime Survey shows the nationwide cost of rural crime totalled an estimated £37.8million in 2014 – a 15 per cent reduction on last year’s figures.
The items most commonly targeted by thieves across the North East over the last 12 months were all-terrain vehicles, such as quad bikes, tools and vehicles.
Reflecting the changing nature of rural crime, in a survey of NFU Mutual’s nationwide network of branch offices, 63 per cent of those surveyed said that cybercrime is a growing problem for rural communities while recent claims data also shows thieves are taking advantage of new targets such as solar panels.
Cath Reed, senior agent in NFU Mutual’s Hexham branch, said: “It is disappointing to see levels of rural crime rising across the North East, especially when there has been a decline nationally. Initiatives aimed at reducing livestock theft and installing CESAR tracking on agricultural vehicles are having a real impact across the country and making life increasingly difficult for rural criminals.
“But the figures for the North East underscore the message that criminals will move to take advantage of weaknesses and rural communities should remain vigilant and put security at the forefront of their minds.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: “The NFU is speaking as an insurer here and about the whole North East. We take grateful note of what they say, but we want to reassure our country residents that the number of rural crimes in Northumbria is similar now to what it was four years ago, has not increased and continues to be a priority for Northumbria Police.
“This summer we’ve seen some lengthy sentences handed to individuals responsible for a spate of rural crimes, following some hugely successful crackdown operations.
“The crimes facing the rural community do change and, along with the Chief Constable, I am waiting to receive the comprehensive findings of the Rural Crime Network’s survey when they are released soon. This survey has been completed by farmers so it should certainly cover the issues that concern them.
“The report will provide detailed analysis relating to financial, safety and security matters within rural communities and we will review what it says in depth so we can continue tackling rural crime across Northumbria to the best of our abilities.”
For more information, visit www.nfumutual.co.uk/ruralcrime