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Rural crime in Tyrone climbs to £500,000

THE cost of rural crime has risen by a staggering 61.9 percent in Tyrone, the highest increase out of all the counties in the North. 
In 2017, almost £500,000 of equipment, feed and vehicles was pilfered from farms across Tyrone, revealing a county-wide crime epidemic that is costing local farmers dearly. 
 
The shocking figures revealed in  NFU Mutual’s recent rural crime report show that the cost of rural thefts has risen from £302,709 in 2016 to £489,974 in 2017 (61.9 per-cent) in Tyrone. 
 
Neighbouring County Armagh experienced the second biggest increase of 30.8 per-cent in rural crime, with livestock, quad bikes and tools topping thieves’ wish-lists across the board. 
 
In the North as a whole, an increase of 5.3 per-cent was experienced last year, with rural crime cost now sitting at a staggering £2.6m. 
 
It appears that thieves are increasingly targeting high-end machinery and high value equipment.
 
According to the PSNI’s Agricultural Crime update, from 2016/17 there were 637 agricultural crimes in the Fermanagh and Omagh area alone, while in 2017/18 the figure had dropped to 556. This suggests the cost of agricultural crimes is rising despite a marked decrease in crimes taking place. 
 
It is no surprise that NFU Mutual’s Rural Affairs Specialist, Tim Price, believes more expensive items are being targeted by thieves. 
 
“Livestock and quad bikes are topping thieves wishlists. Countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment,” Mr Price said. 
 
In response to the shocking figures, Omagh beef farmer Andrew Caldwell says he isn’t surprised to hear of the overall increase in the cost of rural crime locally. 
 
“With the value of cattle and expensive tractors, it is no wonder thieves aim to steal these items,” Mr Caldwell said. “Livestock theft is prevalent up in Clogher and in general, modern farmyards are rich pickings for robbers. The likes of livestock are hard to trace as soon as tags are swapped, and slurry tankers all look identical now. Not only are tractors expensive, they are speedy, allowing for quick getaway.”
 
Overall, Mr Caldwell believes that while agricultural crime has always been a problem, it has become more prevalent in recent years. 
 
“Personally I have had tools stolen on numerous occasions, and I know of farmers locally who have had tractors stolen. Machinery is worth more than ever nowadays and farms are easy targets. 
 
“I would advise farmers to keep tools and equipment out of view and under lock and key,” Mr Caldwell continued. 
 
“CCTV is also a good idea and acts as a deterrent toward thieves. Thefts on farms has always been a problem, but with machinery worth a lot more nowadays, farmers should take extra precautions.”
 
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