Police launch forensic crackdown on farm GPS thefts

Valuable GPS guidance systems were stolen from tractors at six Norfolk farms in August, including this one in Methwold

Valuable GPS guidance systems were stolen from tractors at six Norfolk farms in August, including this one in Methwold - Credit: Jon Chandler / Farmwatch

A continuing spate of thefts of valuable GPS units from farm machines has prompted a new police crackdown to secure forensic evidence.

Norfolk police have launched Operation Huff in response to the latest series of thefts, with six farms targeted during August - all in the Breckland area.

The new operation will ensure forensics teams and an investigating officer are sent to each reported incident to secure evidence and develop intelligence to link in with national initiatives on this type of crime.

PC Chris Shelley, rural crime office for Norfolk police, said: "These thefts in August are the first we have had since June. That is the national picture we are seeing, with organised crime gangs travelling around the country targeting areas for one night and then disappearing for several months.

"Operation Huff has come about from working alongside intelligence analysts, identifying key areas that are being targeted and then, if someone does fall victim to this crime, we are taking investigative steps.

"CSI (crime scene investigation) will be tasked to attend to make sure we are not missing forensic opportunities, and an officer will attend.

"These systems cost thousands of pounds but in the control they go down as a 'theft from motor vehicle', and that is not really satisfactory when we are talking about multiple systems being stolen worth £30-£40,000 each.

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"All officers have been sent a briefing document to highlight the problem and what to expect. It is a problem nationally, and it has been recognised that we are missing forensic opportunities."

PC Shelley said there appeared to be a switch away from John Deere Starfire systems being stolen, with New Holland and Trimble units being targeted instead.

PC Chris Shelley, rural crime officer for Norfolk police

PC Chris Shelley, rural crime officer for Norfolk police - Credit: Norfolk police

He added: "The key is if they have got pin codes on screens, make sure they are being used, and where possible mark it and put your postcode on it.

"The more you can do to deter thieves and make the units less easy to sell on, the better."

Across the border at a farm estate in north Suffolk, seven tractors were broken into this week, with built-in screens and satellite guidance units stolen - the county's second such theft this month.

Sgt Brian Calver, of Suffolk's rural crime team, said he was "confident" that the constabulary would take the same steps as Norfolk to boost their forensic evidence.

He said: "It is a significant issue and we have been pushing for this for a while. These criminals are good at what they do, but they are going to slip up at some point, so we need to be able to make these forensic links."

  • Suffolk police are appealing for information on the theft of satellite navigation equipment from seven Fendt tractors at a farm near Eriswell between 7.30pm on September 7 and 6am the following morning. Anyone with information should contact Suffolk police quoting crime reference 37/49597/21.

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