Farmers warned of spring surge in tractor GPS thefts

Farmers are being warned to beef up security in their farmyards following a spring surge in tractor global positioning system (GPS) kit thefts amid a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual has reported thefts of expensive GPS kit from farm machinery in East Anglia, the Midlands and north-west England. 

Thieves are stealing all makes and models of GPS control units, together with screens and domes from tractors.

See also: Thieves using drones to scope farms, police warn

The recent spate  is “worryingly similar” to last year’s unprecedented surge in GPS theft, which saw hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment stolen from farms across the UK during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We’re seeing a resurgence in GPS theft in some areas and we are concerned it could spread to other parts of the UK,” said Bob Henderson, who leads NFU Mutual’s agricultural engineering field team.

Organised criminals

When asked about the reasons behind the trend, Mr Henderson said thieves were taking advantage of increased spring activity on farms to identify targets and, with lockdown easing, criminals may feel able to travel without risk of being stopped. 

“These criminals are well organised and know what they are looking for – so it’s essential that farmers remove GPS kit when possible when it’s not in use and store it securely,” he advised.

“It’s also well worth beefing up security in farmyards, machinery sheds and on tractors to make it harder for thieves to operate.” 

Det Cons Chris Piggott, who co-ordinates the police agricultural vehicle crime unit at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, said GPS theft was now an international crime, with countries across the globe experiencing thefts and attempts to sell stolen equipment back into the farming sector.

“There are also home-grown criminals stealing GPS systems as people turn to criminal activity to make a quick buck,” he added.

Farmers are being asked to report suspicious activity – including drones flying over farms, vehicles visiting that are not known to the farm or trespassers – on the 101 police non-emergency number, or call 999 if a crime is taking place.

Top tips to prevent thefts of tractor GPS systems

NFU Mutual and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) have teamed up to offer farmers advice on how to foil GPS kit thieves.

They offer the following advice to protect GPS systems from thieves:

  • Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number, if available
  • If your system is not pin enabled, mark your postcode to deter thieves and trace your property back to you  
  • Keep tractors and combines with GPS fitted stored out of sight
  • Remove GPS kit from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use 
  • Security mark and record serial numbers and photograph of your kit 
  • Check serial numbers of second-hand kit offered for sale and be wary of stolen items.
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