THINK crime and you picture a gritty urban setting, perhaps a darkened street or alleyway gangs of threatening looking hoodies.

But some crime and even the scourge of gangs can be just as rife in the seemingly tranquil, green and pleasant countryside.

Eighty-five per cent of Hampshire is rural and the latest figures reveal crime is hitting some countryside communities harder than other parts of the UK.

Statistics from rural insurance firm NFU Mutual show a surge in the cost of crime.

Largely this is because of criminals from outside the county who are believed to export stolen machinery abroad.

Its latest figures show claims of £970,000 in 2013 shot up to £1.7million last year – a 75 per cent increase.

And all this all comes as Hampshire Constabulary makes its worst ever cuts.

The force has already made savings of £55m in recent years and is looking to slash a further £25m over the next two years. It will lose 1,000 officers by 2017, inevitably making numbers even thinner on the ground in remote areas.

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Despite rural crime levels falling nationally, in Hampshire the figures have, unfortunately, gone up.

“The rise seems to be driven primarily by farm theft and we will be issuing our full rural crime survey 2015 in August, which will hopefully give some further insight into this trend.”

One farmer David Powell, from Lockerley, in the Test Valley, had his machinery stolen three times in as many years, totalling well over £10,000 .

Test Valley Farm Watch coordinator Ruth Harper-Adams said there has been an increase in thefts from agricultural premises.

She said: “We can safely say in the last six to 12 months there has been an increase. Sometimes I think there’s more crime in the countryside than in the town.

“This has been in two different areas. One is expensive machinery like quad bikes up to tractors.

“We’ve also seen an increase in thefts of smaller scale items – equipment from hand tools to power tools.”

It is thought stolen tractors and machinery are exported out of south coast ports such as Portsmouth and Southampton and destined for eastern Europe.

This kind of crime has prompted the police to launch a blitz on rural crime called Operation Falcon.

Strategic rural policing inspector Louise Hubble said: “Operations since March 2015 have targeted theft from motor vehicle in beauty spot car parks, non-dwelling burglaries from rural premises and plant theft.

“Ongoing operations are also planned for the rest of the year to provide a focus on enforcement and prevention of crime in rural areas.”