“Silent” e-scooters are being used by organised gangs to launch moonlight raids on countryside farms for expensive equipment, an insurer has claimed.
Thieves are using the e-scooters to “make off at speed” with thousands of pounds worth of farmland GPS systems.
National Farmers Union Mutual, which underwrites more than £1.5 billion in annual premiums for rural communities, said lockdown has seen the number of claims fall by 20 per cent to around £43.3 million in the UK. But the cost of claims linked to the theft of GPS systems and farm vehicles such as quad bikes and ATVs, remained at more than £9 million, only a 2 per cent drop on 2019.
Claims for GPS systems nearly doubled to £2.9 million compared with 2019.
DC Chris Piggott, from the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, said: “Rural thieves are becoming more and more sophisticated to get round high levels of security on modern farm machinery.
“The pattern we are increasingly seeing is of gangs who patiently watch farms from a distance to discover where expensive tractor GPS kit is stored.
“They generally return at night to steal, and are now using silent electric scooters to get into farmyards undetected and make off at high speed.
“Thieves are also becoming even slicker stealing quad bikes - watching for hours to rush into farm yards and steal them when they are left unattended for a few minutes.”
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Coronavirus restrictions, beefed-up security on farms and more effective police rural crime teams provided a welcome fall in rural thefts last year.
“While lockdown may have locked some criminals out of the countryside - rural crime hasn’t gone away.
“Thieves are now returning armed with new tactics and targets. Organised criminal gangs also continued to target farmyards for high-value GPS systems, quad bikes and tractors with the cost of agricultural vehicle theft remaining at over £9 million - only a 2 per cent drop in cost from 2019.”
It comes after official figures show that 206 crimes involving the suspect riding an e-scooter were recorded in London in the first four months of this year, up from four during the same period in 2020.
The Metropolitan Police have also seized more than 2,000 illegally used e-scooters since the start of the year.