Farmers warned as organised crime groups target tractor GPS equipment

GPS systems in tractors have been targeted by thieves in East Devon. Picture: Getty Images

Thieves are targeting GPS equipment from tractors and combines, it has been warned - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

International organised crime gangs are targeting GPS equipment from tractors amid a "resurgence" in thefts across Suffolk, it has been warned. 

Last year saw an "unprecedented surge" in the number of GPS thefts from farms across the UK, and there are concerns incidents are rising once again as Covid restrictions ease. 

In Suffolk during 2020, 47 pieces of GPS kit were stolen in 23 thefts while 11 units have already been taken this year in four incidents. 

Figures from rural insurer NFU Mutual revealed that GPS equipment worth £85,000 was reported stolen in 2019, which rose to £230,000 in 2020. 

Fuelled by demand from overseas, criminals are carrying out night-time raids on farms to steal the expensive equipment, NFU Mutual said. 

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All makes and models of GPS control units are being targeted by thieves, together with screens and domes. 

Sergeant Brian Calver, from Suffolk police's rural crime team, said: "We definitely saw an increase last year, and that was in keeping with the rest of the country. 

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"We know from intelligence, that it is an international organised crime group that are carrying out these acts. The people are essentially using foot soldiers, who are doing the main work at night and nicking the stuff. 

"We know that most of this kit is going out of the country, the vast majority, if not all of it, is being shipped out of the country, mainly into Europe. 

"The issue is that they're not big bits of kit. They can easily be chucked in a rucksack or in the boot of a car, so they are not difficult to get out of the country sadly."

Sgt Brian Calver of the Rural and Wildlfe Crime Team in Suffolk Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Sgt Brian Calver from Suffolk police's rural crime team - Credit: Archant

To protect themselves from thieves, Sgt Calver urged farmers to mark, photograph and record serial numbers of equipment as well as either removing kit or keeping tractors and combines with GPS fitted stored out of sight when possible. 

David Blackwell, Suffolk-based NFU Mutual senior agent, said: “GPS theft hit Suffolk and the wider Eastern region hard last year, when we saw an unprecedented surge in theft.

"Fuelled by demand from overseas, organised gangs have carried out night-time raids leaving farmers unable to work without essential equipment for days and in some cases delaying harvest.

"We are concerned we are starting to see a resurgence in this type of crime and are appealing to the local community to report suspicious sightings and we are sharing advice with the farming community to help protect their property.”

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