Farmers told to increase tractor security after series of raids

NFU Mutual is advising farmers and landowners to boost machinery security after a series of thefts from East Anglian farms
NFU Mutual is advising farmers and landowners to boost machinery security after a series of thefts from East Anglian farms

Farmers are being urged to increase tractor and agri machinery security following a series of thefts from East Anglian farms in recent weeks.

Initial claims estimates confirm the rise in stolen tractors, with NFU Mutual predicting there could be a 20% rise in the number of thefts by the end of 2022.

Highly-organised thieves using a stolen articulated lorry to haul away expensive tractors and loaders have raided farms in Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.

Criminals are also stealing expensive tractor GPS kits, which typically cost around £10,000.

In the latest raid, two nearly-new John Deere tractors were stolen from a Cambridgeshire farm, together with a number of GPS kits.

Both tractors were recovered within hours at Thurrock motorway services by Essex Police.

Bob Henderson, technical engineering manager at NFU Mutual, said there were concerns that these raids could mark a return of organised tractor thefts from farms.

“We haven’t seen this level of organised raids by tractor thieves for over two years," he said.

"During the pandemic we saw criminals turn their sights onto smaller, more portable kit but these latest tractor thefts show we need to up our game to keep thieves at bay.

“We’re responding to the new threat by helping farmers put effective security measures in place, and continuing to provide major support to enable dedicated police resources to tackle agricultural vehicle crime.”

Detective Constable Chris Piggott, who has headed the NaVCIS farm vehicle theft unit for the past 10 years, said that proactive policing resulted in the quick recovery of the two John Deere tractors recently stolen in Cambridgeshire.

However, he warned that today’s organised criminal gangs "have long tentacles, so farms are still at high risk".

"Gangs also tend to move their illegal activities to a new region when farmers and police increase security and local patrols," Detective Piggott said.

“It’s clear that tractor thieves are now searching workshops and farm offices to find tractor keys and stored GPS equipment so it’s more important than ever to keep them locked away in a separate location to the vehicles.”

Last year, NFU Mutual invested £430,000 in rural crime initiatives. This includes support for a farm vehicle theft unit at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS), which recovered stolen farm machinery worth £2.6m last year.

The unit delivers intelligence, training, and works directly with police forces across the UK to combat rural crime, in addition to joint international operations to recover stolen machinery from overseas.

How can I bolster vehicle security?

NFU Mutual has provided farmers with a tractor and large agricultural vehicle security checklist:

• Close and lock yard gates at night to deter drive-through thieves

• Keep vehicle keys locked up securely at a separate location

• Check security lighting, alarms and cameras are working correctly and update if necessary

• Avoid leaving vehicles where they can be easily seen from nearby roads

• Consider infra-red beam alarms, CCTV and floodlighting to protect farmyards

• Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep updated about local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings

• Fit trackers and immobilisers to deter thieves and aid recovery of stolen vehicles

• Use the CESAR marking and registration system