Farmers are being urged to be extra vigilant following a spate of Manitou telehandler thefts in Shropshire.
An organised crime gang is believed to be behind the theft of at least four Manitou telehandlers in the county in the past fortnight.
But local farmers say several other items of farm machinery have been stolen, including a Claas Loadall and a Schaffer pivot-steer loader.
The tactic used by the thieves usually involves removing the telehandler from the farmyard under the cover of darkness and hiding it in a nearby location for a few days to see if it contains a tracking device.
Some of the stolen machinery fitted with GPS tracking devices has been recovered, but those that were not equipped with trackers are still unaccounted for.
Andy Wynne, director of Shrewsbury-based dealer Robert Davies Machinery, said he was able to track down farmer Andrew Dale’s stolen Manitou telehandler thanks to its tracking device.
“The Manitou was stolen from a farm in Nox in the early hours of Saturday 5 August and we located it in a wood 20 minutes away in Wroxeter,” he said. “The farmer drove down there and picked it up. It shows the value of having a tracker fitted to machinery.”
Less fortunate was young farmer Andrew Groves, who said thieves struck at his farm in Shrewsbury between midnight and 7am on 20 July and stole his Manitou MLT 625-75H, registration DX11 KTU. It had Datatag security marking.
The telehandler was not equipped with a tracking device and it has not been recovered. “It’s probably on a boat to eastern Europe by now,” said Mr Groves. He appealed to anyone with information to contact the police.
Mr Groves said laws should be introduced to ensure all machinery manufacturers cannot sell new machines which can be started with generic keys.
West Mercia Police said a Manitou was stolen from a farm on Cordy Lane, Albrighton, Shrewsbury, at 3.32am on 2 August. The machine was sighted shortly afterwards being moved along country lanes.
Robert Davies Machinery has emphasised the value of having tracking devices fitted to all Manitou telehandlers, to aid recovery if they are stolen.
All Manitou telehandlers less than three years old are likely to have a built-in tracker, it says. Owners of newer models are urged to download the free myManitou app and set up geofence monitoring.
There are retrofit options to make older machines more secure, such as a keypad or card reader for access control. For further information, email email@example.com.