Farmers are being warned of a new rural crime wave after a spate of tractor GPS kit thefts across East Anglia.
Thieves have stolen GPS units and displays from a range of manufacturers and agricultural vehicles. Thefts have occured predominately in Norfolk and Suffolk but neighbouring counties have also been affected.
The NFU is now reminding members to protect their equipment and take whatever steps they can to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to gain access.
NFU county advisers are in touch with their local rural crime teams and raising the profile of this issue nationally as well. They are asking members to report any suspicious behaviour, particularly vehicle registration numbers, to the police via 101.
One of the victims was NFU Suffolk County Chairman Glenn Buckingham. The start of harvest on his farm near Framsden had to be delayed after thieves stole a Starfire 2630 GPS receiver unit and in-cab display, which costs around £9,800, from a combine harvester.
He told the East Anglian Daily Times: “I’m disappointed that we are in this situation.
“It’s insured, but you don’t want to keep claiming on the insurance and it’s the disruption as well and knowing someone’s been around your farm buildings. There is obviously a market for them somewhere."
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “Theft of tractor GPS equipment is now a serious problem for farmers.
“Thieves appear to be targeting farms in one locality, and then moving their activity to another area to avoid detection.
“In an attempt to stop thieves targeting GPS kit, manufacturers now provide PIN numbers to prevent the equipment being used by others – but it appears that once stolen, the units are being passed on to other criminals who can bypass the security settings and sell on.”
Some manufacturers are moving towards integrating GPS units into the cabin structure, thus making them harder to steal.
However, the display units are vulnerable so, where practicable to do so, access to the cab should made as difficult as possible, ideally through leaving the vehicle in a secure location overnight.