Farmers warned to increase security following string of tractor thefts

The NFU Mutual is urging farmers to increase security on their premises following a recent surge in tractor and GPS equipment theft on East Anglian farms.

There have been various reports of highly-organised criminals hauling away expensive tractors and loaders using a stolen articulated lorry in Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in recent weeks. Thieves have reportedly broken into farm offices to steal tractor keys and GPS equipment, which is typically worth £10,000.

The latest incident has seen two nearly-new John Deere tractors stolen from a Cambridgeshire farm, alongside a number of GPS kits. The case was investigated by Essex Police and within hours, both vehicles were recovered at Thurrock motorway services.

Bob Henderson, technical engineering manager at NFU Mutual, said: “We’re concerned that this series of raids could mark a return of organised tractor thefts from our farms.

“We haven’t seen this level of organised raids by tractor thieves for over two years. During the pandemic we saw criminals turn their sights onto smaller, more portable kit but these latest tractor thefts show we need to up our game to keep thieves at bay.

“As the main insurer of the country’s farmers, we know that theft of vital vehicles and the GPS equipment that controls them is incredibly disruptive, causing anxiety and worry for families who live in remote areas.

“We’re responding to the new threat by helping farmers put effective security measures in place, and continuing to provide major support to enable dedicated police resources to tackle agricultural vehicle crime.”

In 2021, the NFU Mutual invested £430,000 in rural crime initiatives. A portion of the funds were allocated to support the agricultural vehicle theft unit at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS). The unit recovered stolen machinery worth £2.6m last year and works directly with police forces across the country and overseas to combat rural crime.

Commenting on the recent incident, Detective Constable Chris Piggott, head of the NaVCIS agricultural vehicle theft unit, said: “Proactive policing resulted in the quick recovery of the two John Deere tractors recently stolen in Cambridgeshire.

“However, today’s organised criminal gangs have long tentacles, so farms are still at high risk. Gangs also tend to move their illegal activities to a new region when farmers and police increase security and local patrols.

“It’s clear that tractor thieves are now searching workshops and farm offices to find tractor keys and stored GPS equipment so it’s more important than ever to keep them locked away in a separate location to the vehicles.”

To help farmers protect themselves against rural crime, the NFU Mutual has assembled the following tractor and large agricultural vehicle security checklist:

  • Close and lock yard gates at night to deter drive-through thieves
  • Keep vehicle keys locked up securely at a separate location
  • Check security lighting, alarms and cameras are working correctly and update if necessary
  • Avoid leaving vehicles where they can be easily seen from nearby roads
  • Consider infra-red beam alarms, CCTV and floodlighting to protect farmyards
  • Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep updated about local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings
  • Fit trackers and immobilisers to deter thieves and aid recovery of stolen vehicles
  • Use the CESAR marking and registration system
  • View NFU Mutual’s tractor security video for advice:

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