THE cost of rural crime in the South West fell slightly in 2018, in sharp contrast to all other English regions.

In its 2019 Rural Crime Report, NFU Mutual looked at the impact crime is having on rural communities up and down the UK.

Overall, its claims figures reveal rural crime cost the UK £50m in 2018, an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year and the highest overall cost in seven years.

However in the South West, cost fell 1.1 per cent to around £5,838,000.

Somerset’s cost was £1,275,020, down 2.3 per cent on last year.

The items most commonly targeted by thieves across South West over the last 12 months were tools, ATVs/quads and machinery.

Chris Roberts, NFU Mutual south west regional manager, said: “At a time when rural crime is increasing across the UK, the fall in the South West is hugely encouraging.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of farmers, country people and rural police to tackle crime in the countryside.

“However there is no room for complacency. The countryside is facing a major challenge from organised criminals and it’s vital that police, farmers and rural businesses remain vigilant.

“One of the most alarming findings 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.”

Mr Roberts said repeat attacks were causing widespread anxiety and exacerbating the problems of rural isolation among farmers.