Lancashire's rural communities suffer almost £2m of crime in a year
Rural crime cost Lancashire almost £1.8m last year - a rise of almost a tenth - according to an insurer.
It comes days after two brothers, whose organised crime gang caused misery across the county's countryside communities, were given serious crime prevention orders (SCPOs).
NFU Mutual says rural crime is up by 9.8% from the £1.6m recorded in 2018 in Lancashire - and nationwide is at its highest level for eight years, totalling £54.3m.
The insurer says the rise is being driven by organised criminal gangs targeting high value tractors, quad bikes and large numbers of livestock as demand from overseas for expensive farm kit soars.
Martin Butler, who runs a dairy farm in Inglewhite, near Preston, had a power washer and tools stolen last July.
He said: "It's not so much the value of what was stolen, it's more the horrible feeling someone's been on your premises in the night and had the nerve to steal. It's the invasion or privacy, that's more nasty.
" A few of us were robbed around here, my mate had his bike stolen."
While there have been some reductions in crime under lockdown, NFU Mutual has concerns rural theft is set to escalate as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic sets in.
Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist, 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."
The rural theft figures are used by police forces to help them understand rural crime on their patch and plan responses. It also provides support and expert advice to many local farm and rural watch schemes across the UK.
On Friday, burglar and ATM thief Brian Thexton, 43, and his brother Ronald Thexton, 36, both of Park Road, Bishop Auckland, were handed serious crime prevention orders by a judge following a theft spree between April and September 2018.
The pair are serving jail terms imposed in February over their roles in a criminal gang that broke into rural homes and businesses, stealing cars, tools, a caravan, jewellery and money. The gang also targeted four ATM machines.
Lancashire officers launched Operation Irwell in Durham to arrest several members of the gang and Brian Thexton is now serving nine and a half years for two counts of conspiracy to burgle a dwelling in Bolton-le-Sands and three counts of conspiracy to steal.
Ronald Thexton is serving five years 10 months for three counts of conspiracy to burgle a dwelling and three counts of conspiracy to steal.
His crimes included theft of trailers and tools worth £12,800 from a business in Goosnargh, theft of a log splitter worth £10,000 from a business in Silverdale, theft of a £14,000 car from a house in Slyne, Lancaster, theft of a safe from a house in Nateby, and theft of a car, designer handbag and clothes worth almost £64,000, from a house in Halton.