CRIMINALS regularly staking out farms and limited police resources are causes of anxiety for farmers, with the cost of rural crime in Cumbria rising by more than 50% last year.

Amanda Wallbank, senior agent in Cumbria for insurance company NFU Mutual, said: “Some farmers are so concerned about the risk of criminal attack they can no longer leave the farm with their family to attend local agricultural shows.”

Figures revealed in a report, published by NFU Mutual, indicated the extent of the problem in Cumbria, with rural crime costing the county more than £721,000 last year, a rise of 57% from 2017. In North Yorkshire there was an even steeper rise - of 86.7%, to £1.79 million.

Ms Wallbank said: “One of the most alarming findings from this year’s report is that fear of crime is changing life in the countryside.

“From constant reports of thefts and suspicious vehicles touring the countryside and rural criminals regularly staking out farms, country people feel they are under siege.

“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.”

According to Ms Wallbank, NFU Mutual’s advice to rural farmers was to regularly evaluate security measures and make any necessary improvements, to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the local police and farm watch schemes.

She added: “The good news is that security technology is developing fast and we’re already clearly seeing that thieves avoid tractors fitted with good security kit and sheep that have been marked with microdots.

“Innovative use of social media to report criminal activity is also working well in some areas - and reducing isolation. There’s no doubt that when police, farmers and other rural organisations tackle rural crime in an organised way they get results.”