Criminal gangs targeting new, high-value tractors on farms

A wave of tractor and telehandler thefts in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire is gathering pace, with 20 high-value machines now reported stolen, some worth more than £100,000.

The spate of thefts, described by insurer NFU Mutual as one of the worst it has dealt with, has prompted a renewed warning to farmers to secure their properties.

See also: Cost of rural crime up £9m, as gangs target farms

Police suspect an organised criminal gang is identifying farms with recently purchased tractors and loaders, and using the motorway network in the Midlands to move the vehicles quickly out of the country to sell in eastern Europe and beyond.

NFU Mutual’s head of engineering, Bob Henderson, said the crime wave demonstrated that the industry needed to “up our game” to deter thieves.

“This is one of the worst spates of high-value agricultural vehicle theft we have dealt with in a specific area,” he said.

Farmers in the three counties are being given advice on how to secure their properties – removing keys from vehicles, locking them away and activating the vehicles’ security devices.


The thefts are being investigated by West Mercia Police, assisted by the National Construction and Agricultural Theft Team and Opal, a national police intelligence unit which focuses on serious organised, acquisitive crime.

Superintendent Andy Huddleston, who leads the newly formed National Rural Crime Unit, said it was “clear” the thefts were the work of a highly organised criminal group.

“Unusually, the machinery being stolen are newer pieces of kit – some costing around £100,000 to replace,” he said.

A number of stolen tractors and loaders have been recovered after being left in secluded areas.

“This indicates that the criminals are leaving stolen machinery for a few days to avoid the risk of detection if a tracking device is fitted,” said Supt Huddleston.

NFU Mutual’s latest statistics show that the cost of agricultural vehicle claims soared by 29% to £11.7m in 2022.

NFU Mutual’s tractor and large agricultural vehicle security checklist

  • Close and lock yard gates at night
  • Keep vehicle keys locked up securely at a separate location
  • Check that security lighting, alarms and cameras are working correctly
  • Avoid leaving vehicles where they can be easily seen from a road
  • Consider infrared beam alarms, CCTV and floodlighting
  • Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep updated about local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings
  • Fit trackers and immobilisers
  • Use the Cesar marking and registration system
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