RURAL crime costs the county more than half a million pounds last year, according to research by the insurance branch of the National Farmers Union.

The £628,000 total represents a rise of 7.7% on 2016, according to NFU Mutual's annual Rural Crime Report.

Nationwide, the insurance company say rural theft costs rose by 13.4 per cent, adding that tools, four by fours, quad bikes and ATVs are 'top of theives' wishlist'.

The report, published today, suggests rural crime in the south east cost the UK £7.6 million last year.

Andrew Duffy, NFU Mutual Senior Agent in Oxfordshire, said: “Countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.

“Social media is fast becoming the new eyes and ears of the countryside. By keeping in close touch with neighbours and police through local farmwatch schemes country people can play a significant role in identifying suspicious activity and bringing thieves to justice.

“Fitting gates to prevent easy access to farm yards and drives is one of the most effective measures. High-tech security such as movement detectors, infra-red cameras and ‘geo-fencing’, which triggers an alarm if a farm vehicle moves off the premises, can also play a part.”

The report suggests that limited police resources and repeat attacks are the biggest fears for people in rural communities, with many forced to change the way they live and work as a result of rural crime.