Farmers advised to review security as nights get darker

Organised criminal gangs continue to target farms in overnight raids for expensive GPS systems and quad bikes
Organised criminal gangs continue to target farms in overnight raids for expensive GPS systems and quad bikes

Farmers are being advised to review security as nights get darker when clocks go back on 31 October amid an increase in thieves targeting expensive GPS systems.

The combination of dark winter nights and fewer people out and about after dark could lead to an increase in rural crime this winter, NFU Mutual has warned.

It comes as organised criminal gangs continue to target farms in overnight raids for expensive GPS systems and quad bikes.

In some cases thieves, who already know the layout of farms, are targeting victims of theft a second time, according to the rural insurer.

Shortages and sharp rises in the cost of diesel, heating oil and fertiliser are also raising the risk of vital supplies becoming top targets for rural thieves this winter.

NFU Mutual reported that the cost of rural theft in the UK fell by 20 per cent to £43.3m in 2020 as lockdown measures helped keep thieves out of the countryside.

However, in recent years, the cost of rural theft peaked from October to December and there are increasing concerns thieves are becoming more active as they are able to move more freely again.

Robin Till, of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said the longer nights meant criminals could move around farms and rural properties more easily without being noticed.

“Now is a good time of year to step up security and assess how you have set out your stall," Mr Till said.

"Are your entrance and exit points secure, and are there expensive items on display? Could you target-harden valuable items with multiple layers of security?

“While thieves like the cover of darkness, they hate anything that will announce their arrival so intruder alarms, security lighting and systems which send alerts and CCTV footage to mobile phones are good deterrents."

Farmers should also secure their stocks of fertiliser, diesel and heating oil tanks as prices continue to soar, Mr Till said.

“These thefts cause disruption and huge anxiety in the farming community and we want to work together to make it harder for criminals to steal from our farms and villages.”

How can I boost security this winter?

NFU Mutual’s Risk Management Services provides advice to farms across the UK to manage risks and has produced a farm winter rural security checklist:

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

• Lock outbuildings at night and carry out regular security checks during colder months

• Ensure security lighting, intruder alarms and cameras are working correctly

• Avoid leaving vehicles and implements where they can be easily seen from near-by roads by criminals searching for theft opportunities

• Never leave keys in machines when not in use

• Remove GPS systems where possible and lock them in a secure place overnight

• Store diesel and heating oil in tanks away from the public gaze and consider a fuel tank alarm

• Store fertiliser in a secure building

• Store portable tools such as chain saws, jet washers and welders in a secure locked ‘cage’

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

• Mark tools, equipment and implements to deter thieves and aid recovery by police

• Use tracking devices, immobilisers and CESAR-marking on tractors and quadbikes to deter thieves

• Consider mechanical devices to anchor down quads

• ‘Know what you own’ - record all makes, models, serial numbers and photograph kit to help police investigate and aid an insurance claim