RURAL crime cost Hampshire £1m in 2015, down from £1.4m in 2014 – despite remaining broadly static at a national level.

The figures form part of NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report revealing that the cost of rural crime to the UK economy has now reached £42.5m per year.

According to the leading rural insurer, the items most commonly targeted by thieves across Hampshire over the last 12 months were farm tools, quad bikes and garden equipment.

Patrick Govier, an NFU Mutual agent based on the B3006 Alton to Selborne road, said: “Rural thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and using computers rather than bolt cutters to steal from farms and country properties.

“Farmers and police have been working hard to adopt hih-tech security measures to tackle the problems which now include cloning tractor identities, advertising non-existent machinery in agricultural publications, and stealing the GPS computer systems which are a key part of modern farming.”

There has been a shift in the items being targeted at rural homes as well. In the latest survey of NFU Mutual’s agency network, the theft of garden equipment was sited as the biggest growing trend along with 4x4s.

“But it’s reassuring to see levels of rural crime falling in Hampshire, and this reflects the huge efforts being made by anti crime schemes throughout the countryside,” said Mr Govier.

The majority of NFU Mutual Agent’s surveyed (65 per cent) also reported that thieves in their area are becoming more sophisticated in the way that they operate and cyber crime is also a growing concern. The survey also revealed that social media is now the main resource for sharing information about crime in rural communities and is a valuable tool – not only in the prevention of rural crime but also for catching criminals and returning stolen goods.

“Our advice to people living and working in the countryside remains the same – evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police and community watch schemes,” Mr Govier added.