Rural crime cost Scotland £1.7 million in 2015, slightly down from £1.8m in 2014 – and remains broadly static across the UK.
The figures form part of NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report, revealing that the cost of rural crime to the UK economy has now reached £42.5 million a year.
According to the rural insurer, the items most commonly targeted by thieves across Scotland over the last 12 months were quad bikes (ATVs), tools from farms and businesses, and oil and diesel.
Martin Malone, NFU Mutual regional manager for Scotland, said: “It’s good news that rural crime in Scotland has gone down for the second year running.
“We believe that it’s largely down to the massive efforts of rural dwellers, the police and ourselves to make it hard for thieves to operate in the countryside.
“However years of experience working with farmers and police to tackle rural crime has taught us one important message: thieves don’t go away.
“If you improve security in one area they will step back and seek a way to bypass your security measures, or find something else they can steal from farms.
“Unfortunately, this means farmers face a continual battle to stay one step ahead of the thieves, by keeping an ear to the ground to follow local crime trends and continually reviewing and improving security.”
NFU Mutual is supporting rural policing across Scotland through its funding of the new Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) initiative, which is already showing results and sending a clear message to would-be thieves that the countryside is not an easy target.
Martin continued: “Rural thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and using computers rather than bolt cutters to steal from farms and country properties.
“Farmers and police have been working hard to adopt high-tech security measures to tackle the problems which now include cloning tractor identities, advertising non-existent machinery in agricultural publications and stealing the GPS computer systems which are a key part of modern farming.”
In a survey of NFU Mutual agents, 65 per cent reported that thieves in their area are becoming more sophisticated in the way that they operate and cyber crime is also a growing concern amongst their communities.
The survey also revealed that social media is now the main resource for sharing information about crime in rural communities and is a valuable tool, not only in the prevention of rural crime but also for catching criminals and returning stolen goods.
Martin added: “Our advice to people living and working in the countryside remains the same; evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police but also community watch schemes.”
For more information and advice on how to beat rural crime visit the NFU Mutual website’s rural crime section.