Roving criminal gangs are touring the Bucks countryside to steal tractor global positioning systems (GPS) worth tens of thousands of pounds, according to the Buckingham Advertiser
Following recent raids on farms across the UK, including Buckinghamshire, the rural insurance company NFU Mutual is advising farmers to be extra vigilant, remove systems where possible and return machinery to locked sheds or out of sight.
NFU Mutual and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) are also calling for farmers to watch out for signs of strangers in farmyards and fields checking out what kit is there, before returning to steal it.
In some cases, victims of GPS theft are being targeted a second time by thieves who already know the layout of their farms.
NFU Mutual saw the national cost of claims for GPS almost double in 2020 to £2.9 million and says determined gangs using new tactics could lead to even higher losses this year.
Senior agent for Bucks, Mark Wheeler, said: “Criminal gangs are hitting farms hard in one area and quickly moving to another to avoid detection.
“The roving gangs are stealing all makes and models of GPS control units, together with screens and domes.
“The thieves have been taking advantage of the busy time in the farming calendar, spotting targets as farmers work flat out using tractors away from the farmstead.
“These thefts are incredibly disruptive to farmers – particularly when several GPS kits are taken in one raid.
“GPS is a vital tool for modern farming and, without the sophisticated equipment to guide tractors and combines, harvesting and cultivating work can be subject to delays while new equipment is sourced and fitted.”
DC Chris Piggott, who co-ordinates 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.”
Recently, DC Piggott said: “German Police have infiltrated a Lithuanian organised crime gang in conjunction with UK police assistance, seizing 80 suspected stolen GPS devices from across Europe.
“Twenty-three of these have been identified as units taken in the UK.
“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.”