Crime Trends

Rural criminals strike harder and smarter for greater financial return

Tracker urges rural communities to be extra vigilant in light of NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2021

With the average rural theft claim rising by nearly £300 last year, Tracker, the stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) expert, is urging the rural community to remain vigilant, review their security systems and to look at high-tech ways to protect their vehicles, farm equipment and machinery from savvy criminals. The recent NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey[i]  of farmers across UK, revealed rural theft cost the UK an estimated £43.3m in 2020.

Nationwide lockdowns may have temporarily deterred thieves – there was a decrease of 20% in 2020 compared to the previous year – but figures suggest that active thieves were looking to get more bang for their buck; highly-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards over the pandemic, stealing high-value Tractor Global Positioning Systems (GPS), quad bikes and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).

The risk to rural communities

Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison for Tracker commented: “The reduction in the cost of rural theft is welcome news, but last year was no ordinary year; determined rural thieves have increased the value of their hauls under lockdown by targeting farmers’ expensive quad bikes and side-by-side utility terrain vehicles (UTVs). These vehicles, which can cost twice as much as a regular quad, now represent 14% of all quad and ATV thefts, compared to 11% in 2019.

“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. The NFU Mutual Report notes that Tractor GPS’s have become the rural thieves’ top target across the globe. Gangs dubbed ‘Rural Wraiths’ are now using silent electric scooters to steal farmers’ £10,000 systems and make off along country lanes at high speed. Without GPS systems – an essential part of modern farming – harvests can be delayed and farmers are left unable to work.

“Lockdown may have locked criminals out of the countryside and caused a temporary reduction in theft, but now restrictions have lifted, it is likely thefts will pick up again. More people are foregoing their holidays abroad and heading for a rural retreat, and with more visitors in the countryside, local communities need to be extra vigilant about their property and always have security front of mind.

“Additional crime prevention measures such as blocking field entrances, digging ditches around fields are good physical deterrents, as is 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 Clive Wain.

How Tracker can help protect your agricultural assets

Tracker has an unrivalled stolen vehicle recovery rate of more than 95%, and 80% of stolen vehicles are recovered within 24 hours thanks to its exclusive nationwide 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 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 know it’s there. VHF technology unique to Tracker makes its units resistant to GPS/GSM jamming, confirming Tracker as a superior security defence against determined thieves.

Key findings of the NFU Mutual report include:

  • Rural theft cost the UK an estimated £43.3m in 2020
  • Average claim cost rose to £4,425 – up from £4,128 in 2019
  • GPS theft cost £2.9m almost twice last year’s figure
  • Quad and ATV theft cost £2.5m a decrease of nearly 18%, returning to 2018 levels
  • Agricultural vehicle theft cost £9.1m a 2% reduction in cost, and an 8% reduction in claim, but still well above 2018’s total of £7.4m.

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.


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