RURAL theft cost over £860,000 in Wiltshire last year even though the crime fell by 19 per cent.

In its latest rural crime report, published today (August 3), NFU Mutual revealed that rural crime cost the county £865,000 in 2020.

This is despite a nearly 20 per cent drop in the crime from the previous year. This is compared with a 24 per cent decrease across the south west.

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Despite the pandemic warding off some, the countryside insurers say that organised crime outfits still plague Wiltshire’s farmyards by stealing tractors, quad bikes and livestock.

A spokesman for NFU Mutual said: “Thieves got more ‘bang for their buck’ as they turned their focus onto smaller, high-value targets over the pandemic including farming Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Without GPS – an essential part of modern farming – harvests can be delayed, and some farmers left unable to work.”

Despite this drop other crimes, including fly-tipping, rose sharply across the UK with dog attacks on sheep shooting up by 10 per cent.

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Caroline Trude, NFU Mutual South Cotswolds agent said: “Coronavirus restrictions, beefed-up security on farms and rural policing provided a welcome fall in rural thefts last year.

“While lockdowns may have locked some criminals out of the countryside – rural crime hasn’t gone away. Thieves are now returning armed with new tactics and targets.

“There’s no doubt that when we work together with police, farmers, communities and other rural organisations to tackle rural crime it can make a real difference.

“That’s why we’re investing over £430,000 in carefully targeted rural security schemes this year.

“The extra funding will help police join forces with local farmers, set up covert operations and recover more stolen machinery from countries across Europe.”

Wiltshire Police has been contacted for comment.