RURAL crime has rocketed in Warwickshire.
New figures from Stratford-based insurance company NFU Mutual show rural crime in the county cost £1.1million last year – 30 per cent more than in 2016.
Tools, machinery, all terrain vehicles and quad bikes were among the most common items stolen, with organised gangs suspected to be behind the increase.
NFU Mutual spokesperson Edward Wheaton said: “Countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.
“The threat of becoming a victim of rural crime, and regular reports of suspicious characters watching farms is causing high levels of anxiety amongst farmers who know their rural location makes them vulnerable to attacks.”
He advised fitting gates and investing in hi-tech security like infra-red cameras and ‘geo-fencing’, which triggers an alarm if a farm vehicle moves off the premises.
Warwickshire Police also has specialist rural and business crime officers who offer support to the rural community.
But Supt David Gardner said because of the vast road networks weaving through the countryside, policing a rural area like Warwickshire was not without its challenges.
He explained a number of methods had been introduced to help to tackle the crime including the use of ‘police stop me’ reflective stickers on vehicles which prompted checks between certain times when spotted on the road.
He added: “Our local communities are our eyes and ears, and whilst we have safer neighbourhood teams covering every single town and village across the county who work tirelessly to make even some of the most remote areas in the county even safer, they cannot be everywhere.
“We need our local communities to come forward and speak to us and it is encouraging that with such a significant rise in reported rural crime in the county that it seems many do.”
And responding to the report, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe confirmed tackling the crime was a priority.
He said: “Tackling rural crime has been a key part of my police and crime plan since day one of my term of office and I have invested heavily in making sure that police officers have the right knowledge and skills to deal with it effectively. I have funded training for frontline officers on identifying and detecting some of the most prevalent types of rural crime.
“I’ve also been ensuring that our rural communities have the advice and support they need to be able to take simple steps to increase their security measures. I fund a team of rural crime advisors who work with police, partners such as the NFU and the Environment Agency, and they are doing great work to help communities help themselves.”
He added there had been ‘notable successes’ in tackling theft through the use of tracking devices, and operations would continue to disrupt and bring criminals to justice.