Trackers help police recover stolen farm machinery

Increased use of trackers on tractors and quad bikes is helping police recover stolen farm machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In 2019, Police Scotland recovered tractors, quad bikes and other farm equipment valued at £893,000.

Similar recoveries have continued in 2020, with 130 vehicles worth more than £400,000 returned to their owners in the first four months of the year.

See also: Thieves drive tractors through hedge in Oxfordshire raid

Rural crime and theft from farms is an ongoing issue and police say the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown has seen thieves continue to prey on isolated farms.

But rural insurer NFU Mutual says more farmers are managing to recover their stolen machinery thanks to Construction and Agricultural Equipment Security and Registration (Cesar) security marking, immobilisers and the fitting of Thatcham-approved tracking systems.

There are financial incentives too, as this combination offers up to a 25% premium discount off their vehicles on an agricultural vehicle policy insured through the company.

The scheme also offers Datatag ID technologies, a 24/7 UK Contact Centre, and instant access to its database by police.

‘Uncharted territory’

Inspector Alan Dron, Scotland Partnership Against Rural Crime (Sparc) co-ordinator, said increased use of tracking devices and the rural community links had been fundamental in helping police recover more stolen farm vehicles.

Insp Dron said that while overall rural crime levels have fallen during Covid-19 restrictions, “thieves are still targeting farm machinery and we are responding with regular patrols of rural areas and stopping suspicious vehicles”.

But he added: “After lockdown eases, we’re in uncharted territory. We may see a slow increase, or a sudden surge as the financial impact of the pandemic cuts in for many people.”

The latest data about the cost of rural theft across Scotland and other parts of the UK will be releases in NFU Mutual’s 2020 Rural Crime Report, on 3 August.

Top tips to secure farm vehicles

  • Remove keys from tractors, quads and loaders when they are not in use and keep them locked in a secure building.
  • Keep your machine locked up and out of sight. Thieves often stake out a farm before they raid, so where possible, store machinery in a locked building or where it can’t be seen from the road.
  • Use the Cesar marking and registration system. Markings make your property less attractive to criminals and can help recover your belongings if they are stolen.
  • Install immobilisers and trackers on tractors, loaders and quads. Thieves can’t take what they can’t start and won’t want to be found if they make off with your property.
  • Know what you own. Take pictures of your vehicle and record serial numbers.
  • Join a local rural watch group linked to Sparc and report any sightings of suspicious activity.
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