A SUTTON-in-Craven farmer is being targeted by criminals so often it has now become part of his daily life.

David Airey, whose 1,500 acre farm of upland and heath borders North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Lancashire, said: “It’s threatening our livelihoods. I am always on high alert, suspicious of every vehicle and person I see.

"Locking everything up and keeping things secure is taking several hours a week," said Mr Airey who looks after 1,000 sheep.

“It’s because we are so close to the border that the criminals know they can get away with it. There are about 15 different escape routes into different areas and once they get into Bradford it’s like a warren."

Mr Airey was speaking out after the NFU Mutual which states that despite a reduction in rural crime last year of 6.5 per cent, the North East, which encompasses North Yorkshire, is still in the top three UK regions worst affected by cost.

The NFU Mutual's National Rural Crime Report reveals rural crime cost the UK £44.5m last year. Jayne Watson, NFU Mutual Agent in the North East, said: “There is widespread concern in the North East that a new breed of brazen criminals are targeting the countryside and they are overcoming electronic security measures to steal expensive equipment and machinery.”

Mr Airey continued: "The thieves are professionals and criminality is their job, they work hard to stay one step ahead of the police and they are not scared of getting caught. They will steal in broad daylight and even try to sell the vehicles back to the farmers, it’s effectively like kidnapping the vehicle and then holding it to ransom.

"I had a rare blue quad bike stolen and so a friend put it on Facebook appealing for information and it came down the line that I could buy it back from the criminals for £1,500,” he added.

Between £15,000 and £20,000 worth of equipment and livestock has been stolen from Mr Airey's farm, including three quad bikes, trailers, metal, a tonne of sugar beet, drills, chainsaws, milk kits and nearly 100 ewes. He says there is no point in buying new equipment any more, knowing that it is likely to be stolen.

“We have farmed here for 42 years. We had a quad bike stolen in 1996 and then nothing until four years ago, but know we are targeted about once a fortnight. They will move onto other farms and then come back. We haven’t had anything stolen for a couple of weeks, so we are due another visit any day now,” said Mr Airey who has invested more than £1,000 in additional security and technology to try to thwart the thieves.

"We have seen a big difference since they put number plate recognition cameras on the main roads. Now, anyone dodgy comes our way instead to avoid detection.

“North Yorkshire police have been very good but when crime is organised on this scale it needs cross border cooperation between the forces to make any real difference, otherwise the criminals will continue to play on the fact that they can operate without consequence because they are so close to the border."

North Yorkshire Police's Assistant Chief Constable Amanda Oliver said: "We know that some criminals are willing to travel many miles to come to rural areas, using the road network to commit crime and prey on remote communities. This criminality doesn't stop at force borders, and neither should we. By working very closely with colleagues across the region, we can clamp down on criminals wherever they are from, and wherever they are going.

"In North Yorkshire, operations such as Operation Checkpoint are testament to our ongoing commitment to protecting rural communities, deploying specialist resources to ensure that the county remains a no-go area for cross-border criminals. We are also very grateful for the support of our volunteer Watch schemes, who provide invaluable support in the fight against rural and cross-border crime."

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, added: "This report from NFU Mutual reinforces the findings of the recent National Rural Crime Survey that crime is a significant challenge for North Yorkshire’s rural communities. However, it also reinforces that significant progress is being made to address these challenges in North Yorkshire."