THE financial impact of rural crime in Dorset surged to £900,000 last year.

An annual report found that the figure for across the county had shot up 28.7 per cent from 2018.

Details given by NFU Mutual showed in the UK, rural crime cost £54million in 2019, which was an increase of almost nine per cent on the previous year.

This rise is being driven by organised criminal gangs targeting high value tractors, quad bikes and large numbers of livestock, according to the insurer's 2020 Rural Crime Report.

Inspector Darren Stanton, who oversees Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team, said: “These figures do broadly reflect the increase in reported rural crime we have seen this past year.

“We are keen to encourage people to report crime so we can understand patterns and take positive action against offenders.

“We work hard with our neighbouring police forces to bring rural crime offenders to justice and recover property wherever we can and these efforts will always continue. Over the course of the past year have had some notable successes on this front.

“We are committed to working with our rural communities to help reduce crime and protect their property from offenders.

“We work hard to engage with members of rural community through our dedicated Rural Crime Team so that they feel confident in reporting incidents to Dorset Police and to proactively raise awareness of the latest crime prevention advice."

NFU Mutual works with Dorset Police and last Autumn launched an anti-cold calling campaign to protect farmers from would-be criminals who turn up at farms to stake out whether there is anything worth stealing. The firm has also supported the Dorset Police tractor.

Matt Uren, a Dorset-based NFU Mutual agent, said: “Rural crime is like a wave as organised criminality spreads through our villages, farms and rural towns, affecting everyone in the countryside. We continue to work hard to stem the tide and are warning rural communities and helping with prevention advice, as there are concerns for the months ahead as the economic impact of coronavirus bites.

“There’s no doubt that organised criminal gangs are targeting our countryside again and these figures would be much higher if it weren’t for specialist teams in police forces such as the Dorset Rural Crime Team, and improved farm security measures such as trackers for tractors and quads.”

Discussing rural crime trends during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Uren said: “Our provisional theft claims data for the first half of 2020 indicates that, while rural theft fell overall during the early part of pandemic lockdown, we’ve seen a number of national trends including a spike in livestock rustling in April and the targeting of GPS equipment.

“As well as the financial cost, there’s a serious effect on the mental well-being of people living in rural and often isolated areas. There are fears that the impact will be felt harder this year as farmers have been working flat-out to feed the nation and many rural communities have been put under additional pressure by the challenges brought by COVID-19.”

Inspector Stanton said members of the public can visit the Dorset Police Rural Crime Team Facebook page at to find out more about the work they do.