NFU warns members after national surge in GPS thefts

Ali Capper and her team plant new apple trees on her farm

Following an increase in GPS thefts, the NFU is urging farmers to protect their equipment and take appropriate steps to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to gain access.

The NFU first saw a surge in thefts prominently in the East Anglian region pre-harvest, but the trend rapidly spread into a nationwide issue leaving police and insurance companies to deal with cases from all across the country. Lincolnshire police recently issued a warning after 13 thefts were reported between 17-19 September with thousands of pounds worth of equipment being taken.

Thefts of GPS systems is a major concern for farmers, the equipment can be costly to replace and can massively disrupt day to day farming operations. The technology plays a vital role in modern farming and thefts of systems can take time to replace, causing delays during busy periods such as harvest.

In one case, NFU county chairman for Lancashire Lisa Edwards recently fell victim to the tech-savvy thieves. Although they took appropriate measures to secure their tractors in an alarmed barn, they were unable to remove the GPS dome from the combine. Unfortunately, it was soon stolen alongside the screen used to operate the combine. It had huge consequences meaning harvest was delayed while a temporary screen was fitted. All together it cost nearly £10,000.

The NFU is working closely with the National Police Chiefs Council lead for agricultural plant theft to tackle the new crime and raise the profile of this issue. It is also important members report any suspicious behaviour, particularly vehicle registration numbers, to the police via 101.

As the main insurer of the UK’s farmers, NFU Mutual is also urging farmers to ‘pin it or pen it’. They are advising farmers to make the most of pin enabled security if available on their GPS kit, or to get back to basics and indelibly daub postcodes onto their systems.

NFU Mutual GPS security checklist:

  • Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number if available
  • If your system is not pin enabled, mark your postcode with indelible ink to deter thieves and trace your property back to you
  • Keep tractors and combines with GPS fitted stored out of sight when possible
  • Remove GPS kit from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use
  • Check serial numbers of second-hand kit offered for sale

What's the cost of rural crime?

Figures from the NFU Mutual show that the cost of rural crime has reached £54 million, its highest level for eight years.

For the second year running, the theft of agricultural vehicles drove the sharp rises shown in the report, accounting for an increase of nearly 25%, to £9.3 million.

Livestock theft also increased in 2019 with the cost going up 9% to £3m, and farmers continued to be affected by rustling during the coronavirus pandemic – with initial figures suggesting an increase of nearly 15% year on year in April 2020.

Theft of tractor global positioning systems (GPS) is a major concern as farms move to using precision technology to run field operations. Typically costing £8,000 to £10,000, GPS equipment has become a highly-prized item on the shopping lists of rural thieves, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdown where smaller, high-value items appear to have been targeted to meet demand overseas.

Take action against rural crime

The ‘Rural Crime Hub’ is a one-stop shop for farmers to get information about the best prevention measures, how to report crime, including who to call, and exclusive business advice for NFU members.

Take a look at the links below to get advice and find out more:

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