Crime Trends

Farmers fear rising rural crime as the UK eases out of lockdown

Tracker urges extra vigilance alongside additional security methods for peace of mind

The recent tractor theft[i] from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s farm in Essex has put the spotlight on rural crime, at a time when farmers across the UK are voicing fears of increased targeting by thieves.  Tracker, the stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) expert, is urging rural communities to protect themselves from casual criminals and organised gangs focusing on farms, and calls for extra vigilance, reminding owners to look at ways to protect their vehicles, farm equipment and machinery.

The risks to farmers

The recent National Farmers’ Union (NFU) rural crime survey[ii] of farmers across 10 regions in England and Wales found:

  • Overall, 31% said that they experienced at least one crime during 2020.
  • 42% of crime victims reported at least one instance of theft with the most common types of items targeted being tools / equipment (17%) and vehicles / machinery (12%).
  • Those affected by crime in 2020 saw estimated average losses of £4,473.
  • 59% of farmers surveyed feel that rural crime in their area has increased during the past year (64%) in East Anglia.

Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison for Tracker commented: “The lifting of restrictions across the UK are a double-edged sword for the farming and agricultural sectors; it brings social and economic relief for many but also fears of a release in pent up criminal activity. Unfortunately, East Anglia, where Jamie Oliver lives, typically experiences a higher-than-average crime rate due to the thieves making the most of quick access to nearby docks like Felixstowe. Criminal gangs will steal to order and quickly ship the goods abroad to places like Eastern Europe and North Africa, and farming equipment is high on thieves shopping lists as demand continues to grow.”  

Tractor thefts are rarer due to the sheer size of them and the logistics of moving them quickly enough to ship them abroad. However, quad bikes and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) used on farms are popular targets for thieves; these types of farm vehicles have basic onboard tech, are a compact size to transport in a shipping container and they are often not registered for road use, making them more difficult to readily identify,

“Thankfully, farmers are responding to the rise by taking extra crime prevention measures such as blocking field entrances, digging ditches around fields and most importantly upgrading building security and installing CCTV. Another security strategy is to fit tracking units. Whilst it won’t necessarily stop the vehicle or equipment from being stolen, it will significantly increase the prospect of successful recovery and return to the rightful owner if this happens,” concludes Wain.

80% of stolen vehicles recovered by Tracker are recovered within 24 hours thanks to its exclusive partnership with the UK’s police. A John Deere Tractor worth £25,000 was recovered in Newark in under 24 hours with one other non-Tracker fitted tractor, a valuable Honda TRX500 quad bike that was stolen from a farm in an extremely rural area of Midlothian, a John Deere Gator stolen from a Leicestershire farm, and a Land Rover Defender stolen from Cambridgeshire, are just a few of the assets recently recovered by Tracker.

Tracker’s SVR solutions work like an electronic homing device. A covert transmitter is hidden in one of several dozen places around the vehicle. There is no visible aerial, so the thief won’t even know it’s there. The combination of VHF with GPS/GSM technology, unique to Tracker, makes its units resistant to jamming, confirming Tracker as a superior security defence against determined thieves.

NFU Mutual policyholders can benefit from up to 12.5% discounts on policies covering a tractor or quad bike with a Tracker device fitted.

Simple steps to better protect quad bikes and ATVs

  • Always remove keys from the vehicle and store them securely.
  • Do not leave the vehicle unattended in fields or visible from roads.
  • Store vehicles in the most secure building on the farm, preferably covered by CCTV or visible from the house or road, and in a well-lit area to deter thieves.
  • Invest in a quad vice or ground stake and chain to add a physical barrier to slow down thieves and prevent opportunistic thefts.
  • Be diligent about always using deterrents and locks such as ram locks, steering lock, pedal locks and immobilisers.
  • Install a tracking device so the vehicle can be located quickly in the event of a theft, to avoid down time and protect insurance premiums. Tracker devices use a unique combination of GPS/GSM and VHF technology to ensure vehicles can be located if stored underground, in a shipping container, or taken to Europe.