THE cost of rural crime has fallen across Yorkshire but remains a multi-million pound headache for farmers, according to new figures.
And while the value of criminal activity in rural parts of the county may have dropped by almost a third over the last year, the crime chief of the region’s hardest-hit area believes the real scale of the crimewave is actually far greater.
According to the findings of the new Rural Crime Survey, published annually and based on claims to rural insurer NFU Mutual, rural crime cost £2.5 million last year, down from £3.6m a year earlier.
North Yorkshire, England’s largest rural county, is the ninth most costly area in the country for rural crime, at £1m last year, followed by West Yorkshire (£820,000), South Yorkshire (£410,000) and East Yorkshire (£300,000).
But Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said the findings represented only a snapshot of the true extent of rural crime.
Ms Mulligan, who chairs the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN), told The Yorkshire Post: “NFU Mutual is only one insurer so I don’t think their statistics represent the entire picture. The scale of rural crime is far greater than that. I think it is substantially higher than that.”
Her comments preceed the publication of an NRCN report which will outline the findings from its first National Rural Crime Survey. Some 17,227 people took part and the final report will detail recommendations for tackling rural crime.
Ms Mulligan added: “What is really important is police interacting with rural communities. It’s increasingly difficult to patrol every corner of a large geographical county like North Yorkshire so we have to do different things.”
She said North Yorkshire Police was well-equipped to tackle rural crime with current funding levels from central government.
“North Yorkshire hasn’t had any cuts to policing numbers so it’s as well placed as it can be to deal with this. I can’t say this will continue into the future because I don’t know how much money we will get from government.”
Near Bedale, North Yorkshire, Carol Clark who runs a farm attraction and bakery at her family’s farm, has been the victim of four thefts and attempted thefts this year, including bungled attempts to steal a Land Rover and a trailer.
She said: “It’s not just the cost of the insurance, it’s the inconvenience and additional cost of thefts that cause enormous problems.
“It’s very disturbing and upsetting, and it makes you feel very uncomfortable with anyone who walks through the door.”
Sam Webster, an agent for NFU Mutual in Yorkshire, said the findings of the insurer’s survey offered some encouragement.
“That there’s been an overall decline in the cost of rural crime over the last 12 months is welcome news and reflects the huge efforts being made by communities and others to tackle this problem,” she said.
“Initiatives aimed at reducing livestock theft and installing CESAR tracking for agricultural vehicles are having a real impact and making life increasingly difficult for rural criminals.
“That said, problem areas remain and thieves continue to exploit weaknesses such as around ATVs and tools.
“So, while today’s survey contains some good news, it also highlights the need for rural communities to remain vigilant and put security at the forefront of their minds.”
Cybercrime, including fraud, is also identified as a growing concern with recent claims data showing that thieves are also targeting solar panels.
See Wednesday’s edition of The Yorkshire Post to read about the multi-million costs of sheep rustling.