RURAL crime in Somerset cost an estimated £930,000 in 2021, according to insurer NFU Mutual's 2022 Rural Crime Report.

That's a 22per cent drop on the previous year, but claims indications show a rise in the cost of rural crime towards the end of 2021 in the South West and across England.

Initial indications from NFU Mutual reveal the first quarter of 2022 has seen thieves making up for time lost over the pandemic, with UK costs over 40 per cent higher than the same period last year.

The surge follows a UK-wide drop of 9.3per cent to £40.5million in 2021.

Last year, well-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards, stealing high-value farm machinery as the cost of agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual remained at over £9million.

Land Rover Defender were a prime target for thieves, with the cost of claims shooting up by 87per cent to £2.6m nationally.

Although NFU Mutual saw the cost of stolen quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles fall 11per cent to £2.2m in 2021, almost half of those thefts took place from September to December.

Rustling has also become more lucrative for criminal gangs, with farm animals worth an estimated £2.4m stolen last year.

The number of fuel theft claims received by NFU Mutual fell from 2020, but NFU Mutual claims data from the first half of this year indicates the frequency and cost of fuel theft claims have more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021.

Mathew Latchford, NFU Mutual agent in Somerset, said: “Our latest claims figures warn that rural theft is quickly gathering momentum as criminals make up for time lost over the past two pandemic years. We’re advising rural people to review their security, to help prevent crime and disruption.

“With prices of essential farm equipment such as tractors and quads rising fast and the cost of diesel soaring over the past year, there’s little doubt criminals will be trying to steal from farms."

He added: "Crime in the countryside causes high levels of anxiety and disruption, with many farmers and rural homeowners feeling vulnerable due to their isolated location. The knowledge that determined thieves are scouring the countryside looking for targets, and returning to carry out night-time raids, leads to sleepless nights for many in remote areas."