Counting the cost of rural crimes as sheep rustlers hit the region

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More than one million pounds of property was stolen in the last 12 months from rural homes and businesses in North Yorkshire new figures have revealed.

Police fear the region is increasingly being targeted by organised gangs stealing high-value machinery to ship abroad.

Rural crime cost the region £3.6m in 2013, a six per cent rise from the previous year, according to a UK-wide survey by insurer NFU Mutual based on annual claims data.

The most common items targeted by thieves in Yorkshire over the last 12 months were tools, quad bikes and machinery such as hay balers and ploughs.

And the toll varied in different parts of the region, totalling £1.5m and £1.2m in North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire respectively, but only £560,000 in South Yorkshire and £350,000 in East Yorkshire.

However, year on year rural crime in North Yorkshire continues to fall, with 535 crimes reported in July 2013, down from 758 in the same month five years ago.

Police claim tractors are often stolen with the aim of shipping them out of the country to meet demand in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world.

NFU officials have been as far afield as Cyprus and Australia to retrieve stolen machinery.

Thieves have been known to pose as legitimate workers to aid their criminal schemes, and in one instance two uniformed drivers arrived in a low-loader in the middle of the day before taking a tractor away.

Gangs will sometimes carry out reconnaissance at farms they intend to target by turning up and asking for scrap metal or pretending to be lost.

After taking farm vehicles they will often leave them in a nearby location to check whether a tracking device has been installed before shipping them overseas.

Rural crime is a particular issue in North Yorkshire, where half of all burglaries and a third of total crimes are committed by travelling criminals from outside the county.