Skip to main content
Harper Adams University logo

    Rural crime figures 'tip of the iceberg' warns criminologist

    Posted 1 August 2023

    Police tape at a rural crime scene

    A rural criminologist has warned the impact of crime on farmers across the UK should not be underestimated - as new figures show the cost of rural thefts has risen 22 per cent over the past year.

    The figures were released this morning as NFU Mutual published its 2023 Rural Crime Report. The report shows that offences cost the UK £49.5 million in 20022 – a rise of almost a quarter on the 2021 figure of £40.5 million.

    Among the items which NFU Mutual found are now being increasingly targeted by thieves are GPS systems, with the first four months of 2023 seeing £500,000 worth of equipment being stolen – double the amount over the same period in 2022.

    Quad bikes and all-terrain vehicle theft has risen by a third, and supply chain issues mean replacing these items is proving costly for farmers – which itself compounds the issue by making these vehicles even more attractive for thieves. Other targets for rural crime include livestock – where thefts cost £2.7 million – and diesel and heating oil.

    Every region of the UK except Scotland has recorded a rise in offences over the past year.

    Dr Kreseda Smith, Rural Criminologist and Senior Research in Harper Adams University’s Rural Resilience Research Group, has been researching the impact of rural crime on the mental health of farmers alongside colleagues from the Rural Resilience Research Group, a dedicated centre at Harper Adams which works to examine emerging risks to rural economies and food chains in the UK and beyond.

    Earlier this year, Dr Smith was among experts who gave evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee examining mental health in rural communities, which found that the issue needed to be a top priority for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

    She has warned that the impact of rural crime should not just be considered in relation to the offence itself – but also to the effect which it will have on the farmer targeted.

    She said: “As a result of a multitude of factors, organised crime groups are making increasing in-roads to our rural spaces and targeting farms for machinery and equipment that is often stolen to order.

    “While the NFU Mutual Rural Crime figures tell of the plight of farmers in the UK, I fear it is only the tip of the iceberg.

    “In addition, behind every crime, there is a victim having to deal with the wider implications of these offences, which have much wider implications than the financial impact presented by these figures.”

    Cookies on the Harper Adams University website

    We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time.