THEFT is becoming a rising problem for the UK’s farmers and rural communities. The cost of rural crime has been steadily increasing over the past five years, from £42.5 million in 2015 and peaking at a record £54 million in 2019. According to NFU Mutual’s Rural Crime Report, in 2020, rural theft cost the UK an estimated £43.3 million. While this was a decrease of 20 per cent on the previous year, the pandemic has likely only delayed potential theft, with lockdown forcing a larger police presence in the countryside deterring people from non-essential travel.

As coronavirus restrictions ease, we should expect theft to become a prominent problem for rural and farming communities again. After the dip in 2020, are we set to see rural crime on the rise again? Our Google searches certainly anticipate that this is an increasing and returning problem. Searches for ‘farm theft’ in the UK have hit a high in 2021 – 73 per cent higher than its six-year average according to off-grid energy supplier, Flogas. While farm theft fell in 2020 due to the lockdown, it’s surprising to see such a rapid return of crime this year. Searches for ‘farm theft’ in 2021 have increased by 28 per cent compared to the previous year.

Here, we explore some solutions for combatting rural theft in the UK.

Agricultural vehicle theft

Vehicle theft contributes £9.1 million in losses every year. To combat agricultural vehicle theft, we must first identify what makes some farms appealing to criminals. A lack of preventative measures can be attributed to some theft, where poor surveillance and protection allows thieves to easily infiltrate and steal equipment. Lights and CCTV equipment are a simple solution to deter theft, where if criminals suspect they are being watched, they are less likely to attempt a theft. More innovative methods can be used to deter theft or resolve crime even if your equipment is stolen. Alarms can raise awareness of ongoing theft, while tracking devices allow vehicles owners to see the location of their vehicle. This allows authorities to locate and recover stolen goods.

Domestic oil theft

Rural theft isn’t just on the farm – in fact, it can happen close to home. Heating oil theft is a major problem, particularly in off-grid communities. Of course, CCTV can be used to identify intruders. However, modern solutions may help your rural home become more sustainable and avoid theft. An oil to gas conversion removes your oil-fired heating, using liquid gas to power utilities and heat the property instead. There are more benefits to switching to liquid gas too; not only is it harder to steal, but it’s also a cleaner and more sustainable fuel. Another benefit of LPG is that it can be placed in an underground tank, further aiding your anti-theft considerations. This alternative storage method for liquid gas makes it even harder for thieves to tap into your energy supplies.

Livestock theft

Livestock theft costs the UK £2.3 million every year and is perhaps one of the most disheartening aspects of rural crime. To avoid livestock theft, you should ensure that all livestock is marked and up to date. Furthermore, livestock should be kept in grazing fields away from roads. This prevents thieves from making a quick getaway. For rural theft, the best deterrent is prevention. Calling the police when theft is attempted is the best way to prevent thieves.