ORGANISED CRIMINALS may be devoting more attention to the countryside as their urban 'revenue streams' dry up under the lockdown.

Police and insurers this week issued a warning to farmers, rural residents and businesses to review their security after a spate of crimes in the countryside.

NFU Mutual highlighted recent incidents of agricultural vehicle and machinery crime, including quad thefts in Aberdeenshire and the Lothians. Ingliston-based agent Scott Carruthers said: “While it is welcome news that overall the country has seen a reduction in crime, we are warning rural communities to ramp up security as organised criminal gangs turn their attention to an even more isolated countryside as their other revenue streams dry up.

"Smaller, more portable equipment appears to be topping the thieves' wish list and we know from recent experience that quads have been targeted in the Lothians.”

Across the UK, the Mutual is receiving reports of stolen quads and ATVs, as well as tractors, telehandlers, horse boxes and trailers. A spate of newer Utility Terrain Vehicle thefts is raising concerns that they are being stolen to enable other crime on rural terrain.

Police Scotland's rural crime coordinator, Inspector Alan Dron, said: "During this unprecedented time, it is important for all land owners, land managers and workers living and still working within Scotland's rural communities to be mindful criminals have no respect for the current restrictions in place.

"Please remain vigilant and if you observe any individuals or vehicles acting suspiciously, please note any relevant details, a description and any relevant vehicle registration number then pass the information onto Police Scotland via 101 or if a crime ongoing 999. Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through the non-traceable Anonymous Online Form at"

Mr Carruthers added: “We are urging farmers and rural communities to take all possible steps to secure their property. Many tractors and other farm vehicles now have so-called smart keys with electronic information needed to start the machine, so it’s vital that keys are removed from machines and stored securely in a remote location to prevent thieves using keys to start machinery and drive it away from farms.”