NFU Mutual reports that this year there has been a 44% spike in rural crime across Scotland, this totals at the cost of £2.2m in rural theft.
According to the report, rural crime rose in every nation of the UK with concerns that this trend is set to rise as lockdown measures ease.
Regional Manager for NFU Scotland, Mark McBrearty, said: “We’re very concerned that rural crime is taking an increasing toll on the Scottish countryside at a time when COVID-19 is putting huge extra pressure on everyone’s lives and farmers are working flat out to feed the nation.
“There’s no doubt that very determined organised criminal gangs are targeting Scotland’s countryside and without the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime initiative we would be seeing even higher costs.
“Latest figures from SPARC show that £329,000 of stolen machinery was recovered by Police Scotland between April and June 2020 thanks to shared intelligence and greater use of tracking devices.”
This trend comes as police are alerting locals around Highland Perthshire to be vigilant against theft in the area.
Police in Perth and Kinross are advising that people thefts are a growing concern for gardens, sheds and outbuildings.
Last month numerous sheds were broken into where small power tools and lawnmowers were stolen.
As a result, local police have issued advice to prevent crime from taking place on their property.
They advise that hedges, along with fences, be kept low so that they don’t block any visibility into gardens.
Aggressive shrubbery’s and bushes also help deter thieves since plants, such as giant rhubarb, shrub roses and pencil Christmas tree’s, make it harder to move through properties.
LED lights are also recommended as a cost-effective measure against theft since they both affordable to buy and run at night.
Ultimately locking sheds is seen as the answer to protect them according to the police, padlocks, non-returnable screws and reinforced windows are all recommended.
Inspector Alan Dron, co-ordinator for the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC), said: “Whilst this financial rise is disappointing, as with last year it is something SPARC predicted and indeed expected however there has not been a significant rise in additional crimes occurring in rural communities but those which have been committed have resulted in higher value claims, supporting evidence that increasingly serious organised crime groups (SOCGs) are targeting and influencing rural crime.
“That is why in April 2019, SPARC published Scotland’s first rural crime strategy which provides a clear focus on tackling serious organised crime. This template enables all territorial policing divisions across the country to model their local rural crime partnerships with the same structure and thus create a more cohesive, professional and tangible approach, regardless of geographic location.
“We have the capability to stop people intent on committing crimes, disrupt them in any way we can plus been able to put some prolific criminals behind bars. There’s no doubt that when some of the major players are in prison, rural crime levels fall.”
In particular, farming equipment has been a target for thieves across rural areas, quads, pickups and tractors have been primary victims.
In January, four Land Rover Defenders were stolen a week, however, this figure dropped over March and into April.
Quads and ATV’s were also targets for their ease of transportation and lack of registration.
Thieves have also been stealing tractors to export them to developed nations or smaller models to third world countries.
Mark McBrearty added: “What we’re seeing is the value and the location of these vehicles makes them attractive to these particular crime gangs that we’re seeing up here.
“Thieves have possibly have had to readjust themselves into the more rural communities because they’re more common stomping ground, you could say, have restrictions there.
“A lot of places have been closed down, security increased, so they go further afield.”