Farmers warned of new wave of GPS system thefts

Farms across the UK have been targeted by organised criminals (Photo: NFU Mutual)
Farms across the UK have been targeted by organised criminals (Photo: NFU Mutual)

Farmers across the country are being warned to be remain vigilant following a new wave of expensive GPS thefts in recent weeks.

Farms in Lincolnshire, Essex, Newport, North Yorkshire and Thames Valley have been targeted by organised criminals, with thieves looking to steal the kits.

Used to provide precision positioning for cultivation and harvesting operations, GPS has become one of the most targeted pieces of farm equipment because of their high value and portability.

According to the latest available figures from NFU Mutual, the cost of GPS theft in the UK increased by 15% to £1.8 million in 2022.

One successful prosecution saw two 'calculated criminals' sentenced to prison after stealing over £200,000 worth of high-value tractor GPS kits.

Humberside Police said they had recovered a total of 48 GPS units and screens that the pair had stolen.

Now NFU Mutual and the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) have warned farmers to remain vigilant for theft as farmers gear up for the harvest period.

Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist, said: “We’re urging farmers to take all possible steps to protect their GPS equipment, such as removing them from tractors where safe to do so and lock them somewhere securely when not in use.

“If it’s not practical to remove units from machines, try and park vehicles where they cannot be easily seen.

"Also consider forensically marking, painting or scratching your farm name or post code onto the GPS to make them less attractive to thieves and harder to sell on.”

Superintendent Andrew Huddleston, who leads the NRCU, said the new spate of GPS thefts showed how determined the organised criminal groups are.

He said: “Organised crime groups are once again operating in the countryside, and they are targeting previous victims, especially those who have had GPS stolen in the last two years.

"All police forces that have had GPS units stolen are part of a national group that are working together to tackle this threat and help protect the UKs farming industry."

How can I protect my GPS kits?

NFU Mutual and NRCU have released a GPS security guide for farmers:

• Activate PIN security on your GPS kit with your own unique number

• Mark your postcode on the unit’s case to deter thieves and trace your property back to you

• Keep tractors and combines with GPS stored out of sight whenever possible

• Remove GPS kit from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use

• Record serial numbers and photograph your kit

• Return tractors and combines to the farm yard at night whenever possible

• Always remove keys and store them securely

• Keep farm yard gates closed and lock up buildings at night

• Consider installing CCTV or infra-red movement sensors in the yard

• Instruct staff to be on alert out for unknown people in the farm yard – they may be thieves using harvest time as expected visitors who use harvest time as an excuse to get into farm yards unchallenged

• Be wary of second hand GPS kit offered for sale and check serial numbers before buying