Cost of rural crime in Northern Ireland estimated at £3.4m

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The cost of rural crime in Northern Ireland in 2012 has been estimated at £3.4m - a fall of almost 20% on the previous year.

Insurance firm NFU Mutual's claims data showed that quad bikes, livestock and tractors and machinery were the items most taken.

The figures have been released alongside a rural crime survey.

The insurer's survey includes claims for crimes against homes, farms, commercial premises and vehicles.

It said most of these crimes are planned rather than opportunist.

Martin Malone, NFU Mutual regional manager for Northern Ireland, said: "As a mutual organisation owned by, and run for, our members, we have a responsibility to work with country people to improve security and tackle crime.

"Even though rural crime has fallen, much more still needs to be done to thwart rural criminals and minimise the devastating impact of crime in the countryside.

"We're starting to see the benefits from communities working hard with the police and wider industry. However, people shouldn't become complacent; they need to make security a priority on their farms, businesses and homes."

NFU Mutual said there had been a significant fall in claim costs for tractor and quad bike thefts, which accounted for more than one third of all thefts by value.

In contrast, 2012 saw a slight increase in cost levels for livestock theft.

Thefts of garden furniture and ornaments, stone and chemicals have been identified within the survey as emerging trends over the last twelve months.

NFU Mutual said some thefts in particular are likely to be repeated as the criminals return within weeks to steal the replacements.

The insurance firm said some of its members were using more unusual defence mechanisms such as keeping geese to alert homeowners of trespassers, housing louder and more aggressive animals such as llamas in with other livestock, or installing fog machines to disorientate intruders and retractable cattle grids to prevent vehicles from entering properties.

The survey said the UK-wide cost of agri-crime fell by 20% to an estimated £42.3m during the same period (£52.7m in 2011).

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