Rural criminals are becoming more sophisticated, with an array of new techniques being adopted on farms, according to a new survey.
NFU Mutual's Rural Crime Report reveals that thieves are now using tactics including cloning tractor identities, advertising non-existent machinery in agricultural publications and stealing GPS computer systems.
Rural crime is now costing the economy some £42.5 million a year, with the east and north-east of England the worst affected areas. The Midlands and Northern Ireland saw the biggest jump in crime over the past year, while Scotland and the south-east had reductions.
"We have seen a shift in the items being targeted at rural homes," said NFU Mutual's Tim Price. "In the latest survey of NFU Mutual's Agency network, the theft of garden equipment was cited as the biggest growing trend along with 4x4s.
"Farmers are also having to regularly update security measures at considerable cost to keep hi-tech criminals at bay. They are using tracker devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farm yards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers."
While a spate of high-value thefts was reported in the east and north-east of England, the cost of quad bike theft saw a five per cent reduction.