Clocks go back on Sunday

Don’t forget – the clocks go back one hour tomorrow (Sunday) at 2am. And farmers are being urged to be vigilant to avoid becoming victims of rural theft when the clocks go back, as criminals use the cover of darkness to steal from the countryside. Rural insurer NFU Mutual warns that the combination of dark winter nights and fewer people out and about after dark could lead to an increase in rural theft this winter.

The warning comes as the cost of rural crime has risen to its highest level for eight years, with organised criminal gangs targeting high-value tractors, quad bikes and large numbers of livestock. In Dorset last year, the cost of rural crime in Dorset rose to GBP900,000 as criminal gangs target farm machinery and livestock. It is said the increase is being driven by organised criminal gangs targeting high-value tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles.

Livestock theft also increased – organised gangs taking large numbers of sheep, which are thought to enter the food chain illegally. Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “The longer hours of darkness can present greater opportunities for criminal activity, particularly in remote rural areas which may not benefit from as much lighting, passing traffic or general footfall in the evenings as urban settings. With our specialists at NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ltd, we have prepared a winter security checklist and podcast to help farmers and other rural dwellers ensure their property is well protected to avoid becoming a victim of theft.

“While some types of rural crime fell during the early part of lockdown we’ve seen alarming rises in smaller, more portable items of kit being stolen such as tractor GPS systems, with tens of thousands of pounds worth of equipment being taken in a single night. “The latest breed of criminal is using a range of tactics, often staking out farms by day to return late at night and smash into tractor cabs under the cover of darkness. The damage and disruption to agricultural activities is causing huge anxiety in the farming community and we are working with police and manufacturers to make it harder for criminals to steal from our farms and villages.”

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Winter Rural Security Checklist * Close and lock yard gates at night to deter drive-through thieves * Check existing lighting, alarms and cameras are working correctly and update if necessary

* Lock outbuildings at night and carry out your usual security checks in winter * Avoid leaving vehicles and implements where they can be easily seen by criminals scouting for theft opportunities * Consider infra-red beam alarms, CCTV and floodlighting to protect farm yards

* Store portable tools such as chain saws, jet washers and welders in a secure locked ‘cage’ * Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep updated about local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings * Mark tools, equipment and implements with your post code to deter thieves and aid recovery by police

* Know what you own – record all makes, models and photograph kit to help police investigate and aid an insurance claim * Use trackers, immobilisers and CESAR-mark tractors and ATVs to deter thieves * Consider mechanical devices to anchor down quads

* Remove keys when machines are not in use and store them in a secure cabinet where possible

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