NORTH Yorkshire has seen a staggering rise in rural crime as a new report reveals it increased by 86 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

The 2019 Rural Crime Report by leading rural insurer NFU Mutual reveals that rural crime cost North Yorkshire £1.7m in 2018, placing it fourth on the list of counties most affected.

Kent, Lincolnshire and Essex top the table.

In the North-East, rural crime cost the region £8.6m in 2018, an increase of 25.2 per cent on the previous year.

The sharp rises are being driven mainly by high value thefts of tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles and the items most commonly targeted by thieves across the North-East were tools, ATVs/quads and machinery and fuel.

Jayne Watson, NFU Mutual agent in Morpeth, said: “One of the most alarming findings from this year’s report is that fear of crime is changing life in the countryside.

"From constant reports of thefts and suspicious vehicles touring the countryside and rural criminals regularly staking out farms, country people feel they are under siege.

“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.

“Repeat attacks are causing widespread anxiety and exacerbating the problems of rural isolation amongst farmers who often work alone all day.

"Some farmers are so concerned about the risk of criminal attack they can no longer leave the farm with their family to attend local agricultural shows."

The Northern Echo:

Ms Watson said that farmers have taken to combining modern technology with physical fortifications to try and keep one step ahead of the thieves.

Such measures include farmers digging ditches and putting up earth banks to prevent criminals getting on to farm land.

They are also using electronic devices like infra-red beams which send alerts to mobile phones and geo-fencing, which triggers an alarm if tractors go beyond farm boundaries."

Ms Watson said: "These technologies are proving to be effective weapons in the fight against rural crime.

"This is increasingly important because today’s determined thieves come armed with battery-powered angle grinders which can cut through chains and padlocks in seconds to access farm buildings and tool sheds.”

“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."