Crime Trends

Preparation is key to outsmarting rural thieves says Tracker

Global demand for new parts and a soaring second-hand market continue to put agricultural vehicles and equipment at risk

As global demand for new vehicle parts continues and in turn, the second-hand market soars, Tracker Network (UK) Ltd, the stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) expert, is urging the farming community to remain extra vigilant when it comes to protecting vehicles, machinery and equipment. The advice follows successful operations conducted by rural crime Police task forces across the UK, in a bid to outsmart professional gangs and disrupt cross-board criminality.

Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker explains; “Continued lack of parts for new vehicle and equipment manufacturing is severely impacting delivery wait times for the farming community. This in turn has resulted in a surge in sales in the second-hand market and rocketing prices along with it. Unsurprisingly, professional thieves have been eager to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity. For example, whilst highly-organised criminals have always plagued rural farmyards, targeting popular 4x4s, Land Rover and Range Rover models accounted for a record-breaking 44% of all stolen cars recovered by us last year.

“But it’s not just vehicles being targeted, combine harvesters, horse boxes and tractors are being stolen to order, as well as smaller, high-value targets such as farming Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Without GPS – an essential part of modern farming – harvests can be delayed, and some farmers have been left unable to work. NFU Mutual saw the cost of claims for GPS almost double to £2.9m1, as demand across the globe fuelled the crime wave.”

Just recently, Officers from the South Rural Task Force, along with the Stolen Vehicle Identification Unit, located and filled up more than six recovery trucks with seized engines, gearboxes, and parts from in excess of 70 stolen vehicles including Land Rovers, 4x4s and agricultural vehicles. The theft value of which is estimated at being over £1million2.

PC Adam Levitt of the South Rural Task Force said: “Initial findings suggested that the stolen items are from all over the country. These types of crimes have a massive impact on the rural community, especially for farmers who are not only affected by the loss of their vehicles, machinery, and equipment, but they are also unable to carry out their daily business.”

Tracker, along with the Police, advise farmers to take as many precautions as they can to help keep their equipment safe, including removing any equipment from combines and tractors and storing it somewhere secure. It is also recommended that farmers get their equipment security marked, making it less attractive to thieves as it's harder to sell on. CCTV can also be a wise investment to visibly deter thieves.

Although physical deterrents, like secure storage facilities, hitch locks, wheel clamps, alarm systems and deadbolts reduce the chance of theft, only a tracking device will improve the chances of recovery if criminals get past these barriers. Tracker is the only SVR provider offering vehicle tracking systems that are supported nationwide by UK police forces. Its detection units are fitted in over 2000 police patrol vehicles and throughout the national fleet of Police helicopters that comprise the National Police Air Service (NPAS).

Tracker is also the only vehicle tracking company that uses the combination of VHF with GPS/GSM technology which works like an electronic homing device. A covert transmitter is hidden in one of several dozen places around the vehicle or equipment with no visible aerial, so the thief will not know it’s there.

Tracker’s six simple security tips to help protect agricultural vehicles

  • Always remove keys from the vehicle and store them securely.

  • Do not leave the vehicle unattended in fields or visible from roads, even if you are just jumping out to open a gate.

  • 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.

  • Always use 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 even if stored underground, in a shipping container, or taken to Europe.