International criminals stealing tractors to order are thought to be behind a huge rise in rural crime in the West Midlands.
Farmers and businesses saw offences rise by almost 10 per cent last year while a survey by insurer NFU Mutual revealed that, in 2013 break-ins and thefts across the West Midlands, cost £4.5 million.
Farmers are having to cope with the loss of high-value quad bikes and tractors, as well as enduring raids for tools and fuel.
The figures for 2012 showed the cost of rural crime in the region stood at £4.1 million, while, nationally, the cost totalled £44.5 million in 2013, a rise of 5.2 per cent.
Last year was also the worst on record for livestock theft. Although rustling was less serious in the West Midlands, parts of the UK saw cattle theft was up by a quarter, and in some cases up to 150 sheep were being taken at a time.
More than half of staff interviewed from 300 rural NFU Mutual offices around the country also said they had seen customers suffer repeat crimes.
NFU Mutual, which insures three quarters of farmers in the UK, said that, while the numbers of vehicles being stolen had fallen, claims had risen because the value of the high-tech equipment was so high.
The insurance company believes many of the vehicles, mostly tractors, are subsequently smuggled out of the country to places including Eastern Europe.
A new trend, identified this year, saw thieves target lower-value tractors not fitted with high-tech anti-theft systems.
The most common items targeted in the West Midlands in the last year were tools, quad bikes and fuel.
Criminals have also started focusing on pesticides from farm chemical stores and in one case sprays worth £20,000 were stolen.
Although high-value thefts may be planned and highly organised, the number of stolen garden tools and ornaments also indicates opportunist thieves are targeting gardens and outbuildings.
Ray Foster-Morison, NFU Mutual agent in Pershore, said: "The cost of claims is increasing as a result of more high-value items being stolen.
"That's why it's important to stay vigilant and fight rural crime. Our experience with people who live and work in rural areas of the West Midlands clearly shows that theft is more than just a setback - it can be devastating for businesses and families."
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