Northern Ireland

Sharp rise in Northern Ireland farm thefts

Image caption Farm equipment is increasingly being targeted by thieves in Northern Ireland

The police are being urged to make rural crime a priority following a 28% rise in thefts from farms in Northern Ireland over the past two years.

Thefts of agricultural machinery are now running at £3.8m annually according to the farmers insurance company NFU Mutual.

It said some vehicles have been recovered as far away as Australia and South Africa.

That suggests criminal gangs using established routes are responsible.

Many others are never found.

It is believed farms are being increasingly targeted because the property crash has made building sites a less lucrative source of equipment for thieves.

Farmers' leaders and PSNI commanders will meet later this week to plan a response.

Joe McDonald of the Ulster Farmers Union said: "We have a lot of reports on an ongoing basis of the theft of quad bikes, tractors, livestock, power tools and the problem seems to be getting worse.

"I think today's report finally quantifies the extent of the problem, which is a good thing and we really need to focus now on the solution."

Livestock rustling

The PSNI said that overall crime is down in all four rural policing districts in Northern Ireland.

Farmers are being urged to note serial numbers and to fit security chips to help trace high value machines.

As well as machinery, thieves are also stealing livestock.

Northern Ireland is the second worst region for livestock rustling in the United Kingdom.

In one recent incident, 21 sheep and a lamb were reported stolen from a field on the Foreglen Road in County Londonderry.

It is understood they were taken sometime during the early hours of 29 July.

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