Farmers are being encouraged to take security measures to protect their Land Rover Defenders, as thefts of the iconic vehicle increased by over a third last year.
Defender thefts increased by 34% in 2021 after a lockdown lull in 2020, according to NFU Mutual data, with the crimes on course to increase again in 2022.
Figures from the rural insurer shows the cost of Defender theft claims almost doubled last year to £2.6 million.
There are worries that older Land Rover Defender models, the workhorses which are important to farmers’ everyday activity, are at risk because of a lack of modern security systems.
Farmers and rural landowners should look at traditional and sophisticated electronic security measures to help combat thefts, NFU Mutual says.
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at the insurer said: “Their iconic status makes these vehicles a regular target for both opportunistic thieves and organised criminal gangs.
“We know that when prices go up, thieves are quick to cash in and the decrease in rural theft that we saw over lockdown is well and truly over.
“We will continue to protect our customers and their communities by working closely with the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS), to help track down thieves and recover stolen vehicles.
"But prevention is best wherever possible, so we’re urging the rural community to take steps to protect their vehicles.”
NFU Mutual has partnered with Scorpion Track to offer customers discounts of over 50% on sophisticated tracking and anti-theft devices for their vehicles.
DC Chris Piggott of NaVCIS said: “Owners should fortify their vehicles as much as possible, using a combination of measures such as immobilisers, tracking devices and pedal and steering wheel locks.
“It’s also common to see vehicles stripped for parts in situ, but good site security and simple, cost effective measures can make life difficult enough for thieves for them to abandon their attempts.”
Thieves managed to bypass an alarm and steering lock to steal Stephen Murgatroyd’s Land Rover Defender from the driveway of his Cornish home, before using it in an attempted cashpoint raid.
They took it in the early hours without alerting the 65-year-old, or his neighbours, and he only found out the vehicle had gone when a policeman friend rang him to say it had been discovered elsewhere.
“When he phoned that morning, he asked me where my Defender was and I told him it was on the driveway. He said it can’t be, as I’m looking at it while I’m talking to you,” said Stephen, who lives in the village of St Agnes.
“Where I usually park, it would have been hidden by trees, but I had left it further down the driveway as I had been painting the house that week, so the thieves would have seen it from the road.
“I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how they managed to do it without disturbing us or any of our neighbours.”
Stephen said his friend told him that it wasn’t the first to be taken and there had been other attempted thefts of Defenders on the same night.
After Stephen’s Defender was later captured on CCTV when it was used in the attempted cashpoint raid in a nearby seaside town, the thieves dumped it.
While he was pleased to have the vehicle back and get it repaired, the thieves had already dealt him a further blow.
During a walk with his wife and daughter just hours after the theft, Stephen found his tool box and other possessions from the Land Rover dumped in a hedge, just 400 yards from his house.
Stephen added: “That was what hurt me more than anything. We were burgled a number of years ago and that same emotion came back.
"It’s very unpleasant and can have such an impact on your life, but the thieves don’t think about that.”
How can I increase security?
NFU Mutual has issued advice for farmers to increase car security:
• Keep the vehicle locked at all times when not in use
• Fit an accredited alarm for security and a tracking device to locate your vehicle if stolen – NFU Mutual customers can receive a discount on Scorpion Track devices
• Fit a mechanical immobiliser such as a steering wheel or pedal lock
• Thieves will often target component parts so consider marking them using a forensic marking solution or system
• Keep the vehicle in a lockable building if possible, or park in well-lit areas which are overlooked
• Have the vehicle identification number etched on windows
• Consider fitting a hidden battery isolation or a fuel cut-off switch
• Take photographs of unusual features, modifications, damage or repairs which could aid identification if stolen
• Ensure any valuables are removed from the vehicle
• Don’t share information on social media which could indicate where Land Rovers are kept
• For modern vehicles, keep electronic keys in a faraday pocket or box at night