Rural Thieves Get Smart - Security Measures recommended by NFU Mutual

hay makingRural thieves are spying on country people’s lifestyles to steal from their farms and homes, warns Tim Price of large rural insurer, NFU Mutual.

The NFU Mutual 2012 Rural Crime Survey is based on the individual claims (personal and commercial) experience of its 300-strong network of branch offices located in rural towns and villages throughout the UK.

The main findings are as follows:

  • Agricultural theft cost estimated £52.7m in UK during 2011 – up 6%
  • 76% of branch offices believe members are more concerned about crime than last year
  • 74% of rural crime believed to occur during hours of darkness
  • 71% of thefts believed to be planned
  • Tractor theft fell 11% compared to 2010
  • Metal and Chemical theft identified as growing trends

Local branches have previously identified three trends that thieves are using to steal from rural homes and farms:

  • LUNCH TIME LOOTERS - Sneaky thieves are pouncing when farmers or smallholders return to the house for lunch – in the hope that they will have half an hour or so to search and strip unlocked tool workshops and tool sheds of chain saws, welders and other expensive power tools.
  • TEA-TIME TWOCKERS - “Twocking” –  from the offence Taking Without Owners Consent – is one of the most common vehicle crimes. Knowing that vehicles are now well secured at night, thieves are keeping country properties under surveillance – and rushing in to steal unlocked Land Rovers, tractors and quads while their drivers take a tea break.
  • BOOZE NIGHT BURGLARS - Believing that police resources are likely to be tied up dealing with market town revellers on Friday and Saturday nights, thieves are targeting rural property on these nights. Even if they are detected committing a crime, they reckon police response will be slow, leaving them time to escape using country lanes.


Over the last few years there had been a significant increase in the number of tractors being stolen ‘to order’ often for immediate export from channel ports to destinations including Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

NFU Mutual’s own claim figures show that the number of farm machinery thefts across the UK rose by 15% in 2008. The insurer estimates that farm machinery theft cost the industry £22.9m in 2008.

This trend is believed to be being driven by a world shortage of new farm machinery following an upturn in arable farm incomes and large-scale investment in agriculture in Eastern Europe and Russia.


  1. Tools
  2. Heating oil / diesel
  3. Quad bikes
  4. Metal
  5. Machinery
  6. Tractors
  7. Vehicles
  8. Livestock
  9. Equipment
  10. Personal items

Previous surveys have also identified pockets of horse tack theft in several parts of the country. A number of NFU Mutual branch offices are also reporting increased levels of burglaries from homes. Thieves are targeting jewellery, to cash in on current high gold prices.

Rural thieves tend to be quick to target anything increasing in value – so high oil prices mean both central heating oil and farm diesel tanks are being raided in many parts of the countryside.

With concerns about rural crime increasing in many areas it’s a good time to check out your security precautions – and also make sure your insurance cover is up to date.



  • Ensure livestock is clearly marked
  • Check stock at least daily
  • If possible graze stock in fields away from easy road access
  • Ask neighbours to report any suspicious sightings or sounds of distressed livestock
  • Be very careful when buying stock. If you're at all suspicious of the origins of stock offered for sale - don't buy


  • Remove keys and secure cars, tractors, and other vehicles when unattended
  • Use security lighting in yards and drives
  • Have the registration number etched on vehicle windows
  • Consider CESAR security marking and/or immobilisers for more expensive vehicles
  • Physically secure ATVs by means of suitable locking devices or heavy duty security chain and padlocks


  • Install an alarm system accredited by UKAS and use an installer certified by a recognised approval body such as NSI or SSAIB
  • Fit and use insurance approved (BS3621:2004) security locks to all perimeter doors
  • Fit and use window security locks on ground floor windows and accessible first floor windows
  • Consider re-sitting easily accessible tanks to an area or building where they are better protected
  • Use Smart Water to mark valuable possessions
  • Fit security heavy-duty padlocks to garages and other outbuildings
  • Don't leave valuables on view
  • Secure ladders and tools out of sight
  • Set timers for lights and radios when you're not at home
  • Keep large sums of cash or jewellery in suitable safe protection
  • Keep garden tools secure and out of sight
  • Consider outside security lighting protection
  • NFU Mutual’s web site includes detailed advice on security.


With the introduction of better security measures, whether hi-tech (69%) or physical (63%), identified as the most effective means by which to deter crime, this year’s survey identified a wide range of security initiatives being increasingly employed by NFU Mutual members.

While some members have installed cutting edge technology such as laser equipped alarm systems, retina scanning for sheep and motion detectors to protect their properties, others have sought 'recession busting' alternatives such as;

  • NATURE’S SECURITY GUARDS: Keeping geese, who are easily disturbed by motion and make noise, is an increasingly popular alternative to hi-tech alarm systems.
  • NOISY NIEGHBOURS: Some members are housing more aggressive animals such as llamas with more traditional and placid livestock.
  • BULLSEYE: Members have reported storing valuable machinery beyond pens housing animals such as Friesian bulls.
  • NOT JUST FOR CROWS: Scarecrows placed within farm buildings and yards to deter intruders and make them think real people are present.


For information on NFU Mutual’s business, home, and vehicle insurance
contact your local NFU Mutual branch or call 0800 316 4661.