Rural Crime costs £2 millon- and bill could go higher

Rural crime is costing those who live and work in the Scottish countryside almost £2million – and the bill could go higher.

Giving evidence to the Justice Committee in the Scottish Parliament (Tuesday, 24 February), Linlithgow farmer Jamie Smart, who chairs NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical committee said crime in rural parts has been rising – some of it opportunistic, but incidents of more organised activity are becoming more common.

Although instances of rural crime vary greatly between the regions of Scotland remote areas are no longer immune and, as a result, many working in land-based industries will have been victims of rural crime.

Figures from NFU Mutual suggest that the cost of rural crime increased in Midlothian, Ayrshire, Inverness-shire, Fife, and Dunbartonshire between 2012 and 2013. A year-on-year increase was also recorded in Perthshire, Clackmannanshire and Banffshire in this time.

However, with no collective recording of rural crime incidents by Police Scotland, an overall picture is difficult to assess.

In his evidence session, Mr Smart said: “The countryside by its nature can make farms and rural dwellings a ‘soft target’ for opportunistic thieves. However, increasingly there are reports of large-scale organised criminals targeting areas for high-value machinery, vehicles and materials.

“Therefore, in rural Scotland, becoming a victim of crime – whether it is theft, fraud, or vandalism – remains a very real prospect. Figures suggest that threat is increasing, albeit at a slower pace in more remote areas.

“Leading agricultural insurer, NFU Mutual’s most recent Rural Crime Survey estimated that criminal activity cost those that live in Scotland’s countryside around £1.9 million in 2013 alone. It is reasonable to expect this to be higher when 2014 figures are available.

“The most common items targeted by thieves in Scotland over the last 12 months were quad bikes, tools and fuel such as domestic heating oil and farmers’ supplies of ‘red’ diesel. Although high-value thefts of machinery such as tractors may be planned and highly organised, the number of stolen tools, gates and wire indicates opportunist thieves continue to operate.

“NFU Mutual has also identified livestock rustling as an emerging crime across the UK, with over 4,200 animals – mainly sheep – reported stolen in Scotland in 2013.

“With farm thefts being the most common of crime reports and farms having multiple points of entry, NFUS would always advise its members to take preventative measures to deter thieves and lower opportunities for thefts.

“Measures may include: the construction of barriers to stop thieves getting close to property, such as perimeter fences; regularly checking padlocks and locks; considering the installation of CCTV and/or alarm systems; and marking property such as vehicles and machinery to make it as distinct and identifiable as possible.”