PEOPLE living in rural areas believed they are "under siege" even though rural crime has dropped in Worcestershire - bucking the national trend - according to a report by an insurer.

The total cost of plant agricultural machinery stolen in the county was still £1,008,000 last year - although the insurer said this was a 2.6 per cent fall from 2017 when the figure was £1,036,000.

This is in stark contrast to the UK as a whole, where rural crime has gone up by 12 per cent during the same period.

Jason Barnes, NFU Mutual senior agent in Worcester, said: “At a time when rural crime is increasing across the UK, the fall in Worcestershire is hugely encouraging. It’s a testament to the hard work of farmers, country people and rural police to tackle crime in the countryside. However there is no room for complacency.

“The countryside is facing a major challenge from organised criminals and it’s vital that police, farmers and rural businesses remain vigilant.

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“One of the most alarming findings from this year’s report is that fear of crime is changing life in the countryside. From constant reports of thefts and suspicious vehicles touring the countryside and rural criminals regularly staking out farms, country people feel they are under siege.

“The report further reveals 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."

He advised people living in the countryside to review security measures and be vigilant about reporting suspicious activity.