RURAL crime is on the rise in County Durham according to statistics published today.

Statistics form part of NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report which reveal the county saw an increase of 7.4 per cent in the cost of rural crime last year.

And despite a fall of 6.5 per cent across the North-East, in 2016 rural crime cost County Durham £374,394 while in 2017 the bill was more than £402,000.

Meanwhile the cost of rural crime for the UK as a whole rose by 13.4 per cent.

Kate Sowden, NFU Mutual senior agent for the county, said: “Countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.

“Social media is fast becoming the new eyes and ears of the countryside.

“By keeping in close touch with neighbours and police through local farmwatch schemes country people can play a significant role in identifying suspicious activity and bringing thieves to justice.”

The items most commonly targeted by thieves across the county over the last 12 months were quad bikes and ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), tools, livestock, trailers and horse boxes.

The report further reveals that limited police resources and repeat attacks are the biggest fears for people in rural communities, with many forced to change the way they live and work as a result of rural crime.

As the main insurer of the countryside, NFU Mutual has responded to its members’ concerns about rural crime by supporting local and national rural security initiatives and investing more than £1.2m to tackle the menace of rural crime.

Ms Snowden added: “The threat of becoming a victim of rural crime, and regular reports of suspicious characters watching farms is causing high levels of anxiety amongst farmers who know their rural location makes them vulnerable to attacks.

“Our advice to people living and working in the countryside is to regularly evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police and local farm watch schemes.”

For more information and advice on how to beat rural crime in your area download the report at nfumutual.co.uk/ruralcrime

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