Farmers have been told to boost security to protect GPS kits this harvest season, as the cost of claims for this type of theft almost doubled in 2020.
Criminal gangs could take advantage of the busy harvest period to steal expensive GPS kits from tractors and combines, NFU Mutual has warned.
In recent years, GPS systems have been one of the most frequently-stolen items from farms because of their high value and portability.
The kits are a vital tool on modern farms, with thefts causing huge disruption as it usually takes days to source new equipment.
According to NFU Mutual figures, the national cost of claims for GPS theft almost doubled in 2020, to £2.9 million.
Over the past 18 months, a UK-wide operation by the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) has successfully cut the number of GPS thefts over the past year.
However, there are concerns that criminals could be planning to use the busy harvest period to get on to farms unseen to steal the expensive kits.
In recent weeks thefts have been taking place in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.
In a bid to prevent theft and protect farmers from thieves, NFU Mutual and NaVCIS have produced a video about GPS security.
Bob Henderson, of the rural insurer said: “We know that criminals are still trying to steal GPS kits and will take advantage of the coming harvest period when farmers are working long hours.
“With global food supplies under pressure, holding up harvest is the last thing farmers need. We are urging farmers to remove systems when they’re not in use and keep them securely.”
GPS theft is an international crime, with countries across the globe experiencing thefts and attempts to sell stolen equipment back into the farming sector.
But there are fears over a rise in homegrown-criminals, as people turn to criminal activity to make quick money during the cost of living crisis.
Some stolen GPS kits are offered for sale in the UK, but one of the best things farmers can do to reduce this crime, according to NaVCIS, is to check the provenance of any second-hand equipment offered for sale.
DC Chris Piggott, agricultural vehicle crime co-ordinator at NaVCIS said: “These criminals are well-organised and know what they are looking for - so it’s essential to remove GPS kit from tractors and combines when they’re not in use and store them securely.
“It’s also well worth using indelible ink to mark GPS cases and domes with your farm name and post code to make it less attractive to thieves - and to help police return recovered kit to its rightful owner.
“Many systems now have PIN security – and activating it makes it much harder for thieves to sell systems on."
How can I boost GPS security?
NFU Mutual has provided a checklist for farmers looking to improve on-farm security:
• Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number if available
• If your system is not pin enabled, mark with your postcode to deter thieves and trace your property back to you
• Keep tractors and combines with GPS fitted stored out of sight when possible
• Remove GPS kit when possible from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use
• Record serial numbers and photograph your kit
• Check serial numbers of second-hand kit offered for sale
• Report sightings of suspicious activity in fields and farmyards to police