NFU welcomes convictions following rural crime thefts

04 December 2023

A farmer using a GPS in a tractor

The NFU has welcomed tough action by the police to tackle rural crime across Britain’s countryside following recent convictions and the recovery of stolen GPS devices.

Humberside Police rural task force team caught and prosecuted two criminals who are part of a wider organised criminal gang, who have been targeting farmers across the country stealing expensive GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, quad bikes and other farming equipment.

The NFU alongside the National Rural Crime Unit, local rural crime police task forces, NFU Mutual and other organisations have been working hard to tackle rural crime and have successfully campaigned for legislative changes.

GPS theft on the rise

According to NFU Mutual the UK cost of GPS theft increased by 15% to £1.8m in 2022. However, the problem has sharply escalated in the first four months of 2023, with the cost of GPS theft doubling to more than £500,000 compared to the same period last year.

NFU Vice President David Exwood welcomed the collaborative approach to tackling rural crime and referred to the work of the National Rural Crime Unit, as “a great example of farmers, policymakers and police forces working together effectively at national and local level”.

This conviction is the step in the right direction working together to tackle rural crime for our farming community.

NFU Vice President David Exwood

He said: “Highly organised gangs of criminals have continued to plague the British countryside, stealing expensive GPS equipment, livestock, high-value farm machinery, as well as trespassing on private land.

“It is very good news that these criminals have been convicted and GPS units recovered. We commend the hard work of the National Rural Crime Unit and police rural task force teams across the country.

“The NFU has worked hard to campaign for additional resources and legislation to help the police combat rural crime and we must continue to work together on a local and national level to build a structure that will help to deter offenders. This work needs to be underpinned by solid legislation and this conviction is the step in the right direction working together to tackle rural crime for our farming community.” 

Important to remain on guard

Andrew Green, of Humberside Police Criminal Investigation Department, said: “These offenders, are calculated criminals, who carefully planned ways to try and evade arrest and conceal their offending. Their crimes will have undoubtedly had an impact nationally, leaving farmers without vital equipment that they need to do their jobs.

“This was a complex case that involved work from multiple teams across the force as well as colleagues from North Yorkshire Police, and I would like to thank each, and every person involved for their efforts throughout the investigation.

“I hope this serves as a stark reminder to people that we take all reports of rural crime incredibly seriously. The theft of agricultural GPS receivers continues to be a local priority for our Force, and we will not tolerate anyone who thinks it is okay to target our farmers in this way.”

Bob Henderson, Head of Engineering at NFU Mutual, said: “The scale of GPS theft has worryingly ramped up in recent years, so the convictions of these criminals and the recovery of 48 GPS units and screens is fantastic news, highlighting the importance of specialised rural policing.

“Our data shows that in 2022, the cost of GPS theft increased by 15% to £1.8 million and alarmingly, early claim figures suggest the cost more than doubled for the first four months of 2023.

“NFU Mutual is proud to provide support and funding for the National Rural Crime Unit which will strengthen work across the UK ensuring dedicated police resources are targeted where they are needed most.

“However, it is important farmers are not complacent by this latest news and remain on guard by updating their security and recording any serial numbers and photographing GPS kit.”

For more information, read the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2023 and Humberside Police news story

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