The countryside is facing an explosion in property crime, according to research commissioned by the Home Office.

Experian, which carried out the research, interviewed 50,000 people. It predicts that the countryside will be the hardest hit over the next three years from increases in burglary and vehicle crime.

The areas expected to be the worst hit by crime rises over the next three years are Dyfed, Powys, north Wales, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Cheshire.

Rural crime levels were found to be up to six times higher than published government figures. Official crime figures are based on those crimes actually reported to police.

In South Yorkshire, for example, the Experian survey found 115 people per 1,000 had been burgled, compared with the official figure of 32.

Figures from the largest rural insurer NFU Mutual backed up the findings. Its research found that 41% of its members had been victims of theft or vandalism in the past three years.

But a spokesman for NFU said he thought unreported theft would normally be of small items that the victim would replace themselves without going through their insurers.

“People who suffer small thefts sometimes don't bother to report it. Major thefts are almost always reported,” he said.

Agricultural Insurance Underwriting Agencies agreed that theft in the country was on the increase. “They are an easy target – some

of them are so remote,” a spokeswoman said.