Increased use of tracking security devices last year on tractors and quad bikes has helped Police Scotland recover tractors, quad bikes and other farm equipment valued at £893,000.
The recoveries have continued in 2020, with 130 vehicles worth more than £400,000 returned to their owners in the first four months of the year.
The rate of recovery has been boosted by increased use of CESAR marking and Thatcham approved tracking systems, according to insurer NFU Mutual.
Inspector Alan Dron, Scotland Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) co-ordinator, said: “This year SPARC’s focus is on crime prevention measures and more effective use of rural watch schemes. As a result, more farmers are now fitting trackers which have resulted in us capturing more of the criminals involved.
“Aberdeenshire, Lanarkshire and Lothians and the Borders regions were the most consistently targeted areas over the course of the year. This shows a clear route for our criminality as we now know a significant number of those committing rural crimes in Scotland are located in the north-east of England – particularly the Cleveland and County Durham areas.
“While overall rural crime levels have fallen during Covid-19 restrictions, thieves are still targeting farm machinery and we are responding with regular patrols of rural areas and stopping suspicious vehicles.
“After lockdown eases, we are in uncharted territory. We may see a slow increase, or a sudden surge as the financial impact of the pandemic cuts in for many people.”
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “NFU Mutual has worked closely with SPARC since it was formed in 2015 and provided £250,000 to help finance the initiative.
“Many farm vehicles now have so-called smart keys containing electronic information needed to start the machine, so it is vital that keys are removed from machines and stored securely in a remote location.
Details about the cost of rural theft across Scotland and other parts of the UK will be available in NFU Mutual’s 2020 Rural Crime Report which will be available from August 3 at nfumutual.co.uk