AMELIA COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Living in agricultural communities can come with a certain sense of security, but with more land — and fewer bystanders around — farmers in Central Virginia say it’s important to resist getting too comfortable.

Agriculture is the largest private industry across the Commonwealth. It’s the kind of work that has run in Kerry Harding’s family his whole life. However, ever since thieves trespassed on his property a couple of years ago, Harding says he has made it his mission to spread the word that crime can happen anywhere.

“I didn’t like it a bit,” Harding said, reflecting on the day he found out bad actors had targeted his family business.

Two men stole around five catalytic convertors, a hydraulic cylinder, radiators and other pieces of equipment. Ultimately, Harding says they cost him around $17,000 in damages.

“I think it’s getting more and more common now,” Harding said.

According to Harding, it was less than a year ago, when suspects stole an entire tractor from his neighbor’s farmland. He says that because farmers have a larger area of land than the people in the city, it is often more difficult to protect.

“I usually feel pretty safe,” Harding said. “But I’m always worried somebody is going to come onto the property, or around the houses, or shop and take something.”

Catalytic converter thefts have been highly discussed over the past few years. More and more criminals seem to be taking advantage of the high value of these parts — stealing them to re-sell. Harding says farmers often have a false sense of security as these cases are generally more prevalent in urban environments.

Harding says that he has recently adopted more intensive security measures to protect his space. He highlighted the importance of being mindful of one’s surroundings and never letting one’s guard totally down.

“It can just happen,” Harding said. “You can’t be vigilant all the time, you just have to be aware that it can happen and just move on. It’s pretty upsetting when it does.”

Law enforcement authorities recommend investing in solar-powered light fixtures and other motion sensor technology. They also shared Harding’s recommendation of remaining attentive. Good safety habits include locking doors, closing fences, keeping darker areas well-lit, and urging neighbors to look out for one another.