Measures farmers can take to secure their assets as rural theft rises

By Andrew Heskin, Partner and ARA specialist

Rural theft in the UK has seen a significant surge, with the cost of such crimes increasing by nearly a quarter in 2022.

This rise has been attributed to highly organised criminal gangs that continue to target the countryside, causing substantial financial and emotional distress to farming communities.

The impact of rural theft

According to the annual rural crime report by NFU Mutual, rural crime cost the UK an estimated £49.5 million in 2022, up from £40.5 million the previous year.

The cost of GPS theft alone increased by 15 per cent to £1.8 million in 2022, and the problem has sharply escalated in the first four months of 2023, with the crime doubling to over £500,000 compared to the same period last year.

Quad and ATV theft, reported to NFU Mutual, cost £3 million nationally, marking a 34 per cent rise on the previous year. Meanwhile, the cost of livestock theft rose 8.7 per cent in 2022, totalling an estimated £2.7 million.

Claims often involve over 50 sheep being taken in a single raid, which not only disrupts breeding lines but also causes concern for farmers about the welfare of the stolen animals.

The NFU has highlighted that this increase in criminal activity is significantly impacting farm businesses and farming families both financially and emotionally.

Many rural communities are left feeling vulnerable and intimidated, all at a time when the industry is facing numerous other pressures, including soaring production costs.

Securing assets and tackling rural theft

In response to the rising tide of rural theft, the Equipment Theft Prevention Bill recently gained Royal Assent following months of lobbying between the NFU, NFU Mutual, Government, and other industry organisations.

This new legislation gives the Home Secretary wider powers to make regulations that will deter the theft and resale of quad bikes and ATVs.

Farmers are encouraged to fit immobilisers and add forensic markings to their vehicles to ensure that owner details are registered.

This will help make these essential farm vehicles less attractive for criminals to steal.

The National Rural Crime Unit, a partnership between farmers, policymakers, and police forces, is an excellent example of how farming businesses can be protected from criminal gangs. This unit works at both national and local levels to examine ways of safeguarding the farming community.

The rise in rural theft in the UK is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention. While the new legislation and the work of the National Rural Crime Unit are steps in the right direction, it is crucial for farmers to take proactive measures to secure their assets.

If you have been affected or are worried by rural theft and would like to know more about potential tax implications on your business or advice on filing for financial compensation, then please contact us.