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Dorset and other parts of the South West have seen an increase in rural crime in the last year, according to a new report.

NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report, published on Monday 14 August, shows that rural crime cost the South West £5.6m in 2016, up almost 6% from £5.3m in 2015.

It also shows that that despite the UK seeing a 4% drop last year, the cost of rural theft has risen sharply in the first half of 2017.

According to the leading rural insurer’s 2017 Rural Crime Report, early theft claims statistics for the first half of this year show a sharp rise of over 20% nationally, raising concerns that a new wave of rural crime is hitting the countryside.

The items most commonly targeted by thieves across the South West over the last 12 months were ATV (all terrain vehicles) and quad bikes, tools and garden equipment.

Richard Carter, NFU Mutual Senior Agent in the South West, said: ‘The South West has seen an increase in rural crime over the last 12 months, as countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.

‘In some parts of the region, farmers are having to turn their farmyards into fortresses to protect themselves from repeated thieves who are targeting quads, tractors and power tools. They are using tracking devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farm yards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.’

The report reveals that being ‘staked out’ is the biggest worry for country people, followed closely by longer police response times in rural areas. Criminals continue to target Land Rover Defenders, quad bikes, tractors, tools and livestock despite increased security on farms.

Carter adds: ‘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.

“Our advice to people living and working in the countryside is to regularly evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police and local farm watch schemes.’

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