In its Rural Crime Report, published yesterday NFU Mutual revealed rural theft cost the whole of the UK an estimated £43.3m in 2020, a fall of 20.3 per cent on the previous year, making it the lowest annual cost recorded in five years.
However, criminals continued to target Northern Ireland’s farms over the pandemic, stealing agricultural vehicles, tools and livestock.
Other rural crimes, including dog attacks on livestock and fly-tipping rose sharply in 2020. NFU Mutual claims data shows the cost of dog attacks on sheep and cattle continued to worsen this year with a UK rise of 50 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
Fly-tipping in fields, gateways and country lanes blighted the countryside as waste recycling centres restricted access, leaving farmers to deal with the clean-up and risks to their health and that of their livestock and the environment.
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Martin Malone, NFU Mutual manager for Northern Ireland, said: “While lockdown may have locked some criminals out of the countryside – rural crime hasn’t gone away. Thieves are now returning armed with new tactics and targets. As the economic impact of the pandemic bites, we are very concerned that rural theft may escalate significantly.”
NFU Mutual is investing an additional £30,000 this year in the fight against rural crime in NI and has called on the public to report any supicious activity to the police.