RURAL crime in Wiltshire increased by nearly 50 per cent in 2017, costing the county over £800,000.

Top of thieves wish-list include quad bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), tools and garden equipment.

UK statistics show rural theft costs rose 13.4 per cent, costing Wiltshire £829,003 in 2017, a higher than average rise of 46.4 per cent from £566,201 in 2016.

The figures from part of NFU Mutual's annual Rural Crime Report, published on Thursday last week.

Jonathon Price, NFU Mutual senior agent in Wiltshire, said: "Countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.

Social media is fast becoming the new eyes and ears of the countryside. By keeping in close touch with neighbours and police through local farmwatch schemes country people can play a significant role in identifying suspicious activity and bringing thieves to justice."

“Fitting gates to prevent easy access to farm yards and drives is one of the most effective measures. High-tech security such as movement detectors, infra-red cameras and ‘geo-fencing’, which triggers an alarm if a farm vehicle moves off the premises, can also play a part.”

The report further reveals that limited police resources and repeat attacks are the biggest fears for people in rural communities, with many forced to change the way they live and work as a result of rural crime.

Mr Price added: “The threat of becoming a victim of rural crime, and regular reports of suspicious characters watching farms is causing high levels of anxiety amongst farmers who know their rural location makes them vulnerable to attacks.

“Our advice to people living and working in the countryside is to regularly evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police and local farm watch schemes.”

As the main insurer of the countryside, NFU Mutual has responded to its members’ concerns about rural crime by supporting local and national rural security initiatives and investing more than £1.2m to tackle the menace of rural crime.