RURAL theft is estimated to have cost agriculture in the South East £4.9m in 2010, according to NFU Mutual, the insurance arm of the National Farmers Union.
A rural crime survey has revealed the countryside is proving difficult to police. Crooks are most likely to strike after midnight and raid outbuildings, with tools, heating oil and quad bikes top of their most-wanted list.
NFU Mutual says criminals are systematically targeting farms in the South East with a 46 per cent rise in agri-crime during last year.
This reflects a nationwide trend where almost two thirds (62 per cent) of NFU Mutual branches reported an increase in rural crime in their area.
While nationally thieves have targeted expensive tractors, heating oil, scrap metal and livestock, the theft of power tools such as chainsaws, lawnmowers and workshop tools topped the list of items targeted by rural criminals in this region. Fuel, such as farm diesel and domestic heating oil, came in a close second followed by quad bikes.
The NFU Mutual rural crime survey is based on the 2010 claims experience of its network of branch offices located in rural towns and villages. Unlike some other crime reports, the survey includes claims for crimes against homes, farms, commercial premises and vehicles.
The main reasons cited for thieves targeting the countryside were the fact that as it was such a sparse area, it was seen as difficult to police and there was less chance of thieves being seen.
Relaxed attitudes towards security measures were also said to be a factor.