Farmers urged to be vigilant following new wave of GPS thefts

Farmers across the UK are being urged to be vigilant following a new wave of Global Positioning System (GPS) thefts in recent weeks. 

UK farmers are urged to be vigilant following a new wave of GPS, NFU Mutual and the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) warns.

NFU Mutual and the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) have just issued a security alert. 

Intel has shown farms in Lincolnshire, Essex, Newport, North Yorkshire and Thames Valley have been targeted by organised criminals, with thieves looking to steal GPS systems. 

GPS systems have become one of the most targeted pieces of farm equipment because of their high value and portability. 

NFU Mutual’s latest figures reveal the UK cost of GPS theft increased by 15% to £1.8 million in 2022. 

Take all possible steps to protect your GPS equipment 

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Hannah Binns said that this new wave of GPS theft is “incredibly alarming”, especially as farmers start gearing up for the busy harvest period. 

“It is also worrying to hear that thieves are targeting farms who have previously had GPS stolen, especially when considering the financial and emotional impact these crimes have already had on those farmers. 

“Together with the National Rural Crime Unit, we’re urging farmers to take all possible steps to protect their GPS equipment, such as removing them from tractors, combines and other machines where safe to do so and lock them somewhere securely when not in use. 

“If it’s not practical to remove units from machines, try and park vehicles where they cannot be easily seen. Also consider forensically marking, painting or scratching your farm name or post code onto the GPS to make them less attractive to thieves and harder to sell on,” she added. 

Working together to tackle the crime 

Superintendent Andrew Huddleston, who leads the NRCU, said: “Organised crime groups are once again operating in the countryside, and they are targeting previous victims, especially those who have had GPS stolen in the last two years. 

“Whilst there have been several recent successful arrests of those responsible, the new spate of GPS thefts shows how determined the organised criminal groups are, so we’re urging all farmers to be vigilant and take security steps.  

Superintendent Andrew Huddleston, photo by CLA.

“All police forces that have had GPS units stolen are part of a national group that are working together to tackle this threat and help protect the UKs farming industry.” 

Superintendent Huddleston added that it is “vital” that the officers receive information and intelligence. 

“Please can I urge farmers and members of the rural community that if you see any suspicious activity, particularly vehicles, moving around at any time of the day, please share this information on rural watch groups and with the police so we can arrest those responsible,” he concluded. 

READ MORE: Teenager arrested following theft of tractor in Dorchester

READ MORE: Two Darlington men linked to £1m farm machinery theft arrested

GPS security guide 

NFU Mutual has issued a GPS security guide: 

  • Activate PIN security on your GPS kit with your own unique number
  • Mark your postcode on the unit’s case to deter thieves and trace your property back to you
  • Keep tractors and combines with GPS stored out of sight whenever possible
  • Remove GPS kit from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use
  • Record serial numbers and photograph your kit
  • Return tractors and combines to the farm yard at night whenever possible
  • Always remove keys and store them securely
  • Keep farm yard gates closed and lock up buildings at night
  • Consider installing CCTV or infra-red movement sensors in the yard
  • Instruct staff to be on alert out for unknown people in the farm yard – they may be thieves using harvest time as expected visitors who use harvest time as an excuse to get into farm yards unchallenged
  • Be wary of second hand GPS kit offered for sale and check serial numbers before buying.

Northamptonshire Police Rural Crime Team has also shared further crime prevention advice regarding the security of wherever farmers store their machinery:

  • Consider simple alarm systems that can be installed in the cab to alert you should someone enter to take the screens. These work by calling a programmed phone number
  • Investing in yard CCTV and sensor alarms can aid both prevention and the investigation of crime
  • Park the vulnerable machinery in a position that you would be more likely to be alerted should someone visit during the hours of darkness.

Northamptonshire Police Rural Crime Team said the officers are happy to come and visit your farm and offer further crime prevention advice and answer any questions farmers may have.

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