Rural theft in Nottinghamshire falls as Covid keeps crooks out of the countryside

The cost of rural theft in Nottinghamshire fell nearly 18 per cent to around £848,000 in 2020 as COVID restrictions helped keep criminals out of the countryside, according to new figures.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 6:15 pm
Organised criminal gangs also continued to target farmyards for high-value GPS systems, quad bikes and tractors with the UK cost of agricultural vehicle theft remaining at over £9million - only a 2 per cent drop in cost from 2019.

Insurance company NFU Mutual revealed that the Midlands as a whole saw the cost of rural theft drop 25 per cent to an estimated £7.9m in 2020.

Across the UK, rural theft costs totalled £43.3m in 2020, a fall of 20.3 per cent on the previous year, making it the lowest annual cost recorded in five years.

However, highly-organised criminals continued to plague Nottinghamshire’s farmyards over the pandemic, targeting high-value tractors, quad bikes, tools and livestock.

Thieves turned their focus onto smaller, high-value targets over the pandemic including farming Global Positioning Systems (GPS), delaying harvest and leaving some farmers unable to work.

Other rural crimes, including dog attacks on livestock and fly-tipping rose sharply across the UK.

The value of sheep and cattle attacked by dogs shot up by 10 per cent in 2020 to £1.3m in a year, which saw a surge in pet ownership and countryside visits.

Fly-tipping in fields, gateways and country lanes reached epidemic proportions as waste recycling centres restricted access, leaving farmers to deal with the clean-up and risks to their health and that of their livestock and the environment.

Livestock theft fell sharply in 2020 - down 25 percent to a cost of £2.3m UK-wide as emptier roads made it harder for thieves to make off with vehicles full of stolen animals. In the Midlands, tougher enforcement saw livestock theft drop even further than the UK average, down 49 per cent to £248,000.

Superintendent Kevin Broadhead, district commander for Nottinghamshire, said: “We are pleased to see a reduction in the cost of rural thefts in Nottinghamshire. However, we are not resting on our laurels and we are committed to continuing our efforts to clamp down on rural crime in general.

“We understand the cost and psychological impact that theft has on victims and their businesses and we work closely with business owners in order to help them with crime prevention and thorough investigations in the event of something being stolen.

“Recently the force invested in high-tech tracker devices in officers’ cars so they can catch thieves who steal agricultural equipment red-handed. As a result of this, we recovered two tractors earlier this year after they were stolen in Newark, returning them to their rightful owners intact.

“We have also set up a committee with partners such as the National Farmers’ Union and Country Landowners Association, to look at ways in which to tackle rural crime issues head on.

“Alongside this, we would urge farmers to return machinery and plant to a secure yard at the end of the day, although we appreciate this is not always possible. If they must be stored elsewhere, vehicles should be kept locked at all times, with keys removed, stored securely when they are not in use and kept in a well-lit location overnight.

“Information and intelligence from local communities also plays a key role in the fight against rural crime.

"Every piece of information helps us build up a picture and could prove vital in bringing criminals to justice so I’d urge members of the public to please report anything suspicious to us by calling Nottinghamshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency call 999.”

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Coronavirus restrictions, beefed-up security on farms and rural policing provided a welcome fall in rural thefts last year.”

“While lockdown may have locked some criminals out of the countryside – rural crime hasn’t gone away. Thieves are now returning armed with new tactics and targets. As the economic impact of the pandemic bites, we are very concerned that rural theft may escalate significantly.

“Last year saw sharp rises in other crimes such as dog attacks on livestock which caused appalling suffering to farm animals and huge anxiety for farmers and their families as they dealt with the aftermath.

“Organised criminal gangs also continued to target farmyards for high-value GPS systems, quad bikes and tractors with the UK cost of agricultural vehicle theft remaining at over £9million - only a 2 per cent drop in cost from 2019.”