Farmers and crofters are being urged by police to make sure they lock up every night to protect their property from thieves this winter.
North-east division crime reduction officer Constable Mike Urquhart said rural theft has been increasing as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic hits.
He warned that the combination of dark winter nights and fewer people out and about in the evening could lead to an increase in rural crime in the months ahead.
“Thieves will strike at any time of year but we do find they change their tactics as the nights draw in, targeting vulnerable outbuildings and taking advantage of bad weather when people are less likely to carry out their usual checks,” said PC Urquhart.
He urged farmers to take steps to protect their property, including implementing a lockdown strategy every night, by closing all gates and doors and moving any equipment or machinery that could be stolen out of sight.
“We advise farmers to look at their farm through the eyes of a thief and start with the yard and entrance,” added Constable Urquhart.
He said hinge-capped gates, which can’t be lifted off, and good quality chains and padlocks were the first step in securing a farm property.
“An 8mm chain link is too small, 10-13mm is the norm and 16mm will stop most thieves,” said PC Urquhart.
“Also, you need one-metre of chain per gate to do a proper job of securing them. And the design of the padlock can also make a difference.
“Closed shackle padlocks make it relatively difficult to get bolt cutters onto the shackle.
“Also consider fitting padlock covers on all doors – this makes them far harder to cut or force open.”
He also advised farmers to assess what was on display in their yard and ensure there were no hints to would-be thieves of what might be inside buildings.
He added: “Also ‘target-harden’ your valuable objects – this might involve creating a security cage for high-value items including tools and quads.”
Farmers are also advised to ensure all vehicles, homes and offices are locked when not in use, and to make the farm less easy to visit casually by closing entry gates whenever access is not needed.
The officer said winter was also the perfect time to “ramp up” detectable security measures on farms and crofts.
These include intruder alarms, security lighting and CCTV cameras.
However, he added that: “CCTV is a useful tool but it must be remembered that CCTV on its own is not a deterrent to criminality and should always be combined with appropriate physical security.”