Rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers to increase security in their farmyards following a spring surge in tractor GPS thefts.
In recent weeks, the insurer is reporting thefts in East Anglia, the Midlands and the North West of England.
“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.
“Thieves are stealing all makes and models of GPS control units, together with screens and domes. It’s worryingly similar to last year’s unprecedented surge in GPS theft, which saw equipment stolen from farms across the UK.”
DC Chris Piggott, who coordinates the agricultural vehicle crime unit at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS), said: “GPS theft is an international crime, with countries across the globe experiencing thefts and attempts to sell stolen equipment back into the farming sector. There are also homegrown criminals stealing GPS systems as people turn to criminal activity to make a quick buck.”
Using funding from NFU Mutual, NaVCIS is supporting operations to tackle organised agricultural machinery crime and is working with police forces overseas to disrupt international gangs.
When asked about the reasons behind the trend, Mr Henderson said: “Thieves are 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. It’s also well worth beefing up security in farmyards, machinery sheds and on tractors to make it harder for thieves to operate.”
NFU Mutual and NaVCIS are now urging farmers with GPS systems to activate PIN number security codes and mark older equipment (without PIN security) with farm names and postcodes in indelible ink, or forensically, to make it harder for thieves to sell units on, and help the police and potential buyers to spot stolen equipment.
“Demand for GPS equipment is fuelling this type of crime and we are urging people to think twice before purchasing second-hand items online,” said DC Chris Piggott.
“Although police have shut some bogus sellers down, they are emerging again under false names and purporting to be UK sellers.
“Anyone considering a purchase should get photos showing serial numbers before parting with any money and check with the manufacturer that it is not recorded stolen on their system before completing the transaction.
“We also urge farmers to report suspicious activity including drones over farms, vehicles visiting that are not known to the farm, or trespassers on 101, and if a crime is taking place call 999.”
To protect GPS equipment, the latest advice from NFU Mutual is to:
- Activate PIN security on GPS equipment if available
- Mark your postcode on older equipment to deter thieves and trace property back to you
- Keep machinery equipped with GPS stored out of sight where possible
- Remove GPS equipment where possible and store securely when not in use
- Record serial numbers and photograph your kit
- Check serial numbers of second-hand kit offered for sale