A RURAL crime wave is sweeping across the British countryside, with the number of reported incidents at their highest level since 2013.

The situation has been highlighted by rural insurer NFU Mutual, where the latest records show a 13.4% increase in crime incidents in just one year. Initial estimates suggest that theft cost the UK’s rural homes, businesses and farms a staggering £44.5million in 2017.

Every year, the Mutual publishes a detailed report on rural crime trends in August which provides detailed analysis including county statistics and information on changing patterns of theft – but this year, the high level of incidents and widespread concern in rural communities has led the company to issue an early warning to farmers and country dwellers that they need to increase their security.

NFU Mutual’s rural affairs specialist Tim Price said: “From the North of Scotland down to the south east of England we’re seeing brazen criminals stealing cars, four x fours, tractors, quad bikes and tools. We are especially concerned that criminals are becoming more sophisticated and are overcoming electronic security to steal expensive vehicles of all types," said Mr Price.

“With police facing huge challenges – including budget cuts and extra workload – forces are finding it hard to resource rural policing and this may be one of the reasons for the rise in thefts we are seeing.

“There is still a perception among criminals that there are easy targets in the countryside – but farmers and homeowners can do a lot to deter thieves by taking simple security measures," he suggested.

“Fitting gates to prevent easy access to farm yards and drives is one of the most effective measures. High-tech security such as movement detectors, infra-red cameras and ‘geo-fencing’, which triggers an alarm if a farm vehicle moves off the premises, can also play their part.

“Social media is fast becoming the new eyes and ears of the countryside and keeping in close touch with neighbours and police through local farmwatch schemes can play a significant role in identifying suspicious activity and bringing thieves to justice,” added Mr Price.