Farmers urged to ‘pin it or pen it’ as spate of GPS thefts continues

Following a spate of GPS thefts from tractors and combine harvesters, police are warning Norfolk far

Following a spate of GPS thefts from tractors and combine harvesters, police are warning Norfolk farmers to take extra steps to deter thieves. Picture: Chris Hill - Credit: Chris Hill

Farmers are being warned to take extra steps to safeguard expensive GPS systems on tractors and combine harvesters as the Norfolk countryside continues to be targeted by criminal gangs.

The spate of thefts was first highlighted earlier this summer, when harvest operations for several of the region’s farms were delayed by the theft of satellite guidance systems, which cost between £8,000 and £14,000 and are essential components in modern “precision farming” systems.

As the trend continues, Norfolk police and rural insurer NFU Mutual have urged farmers to make the most of pin-enabled security, if available, on their GPS equipment, or to “get back to basics” and permanently mark postcodes onto their systems to deter international criminal gangs who are stealing to order for re-sale across the globe.

PC Jonathan Chandler of the Norfolk Police Rural Crime Team said: “Our message to help farmers protect their property, is to have a multi-layered approach to security and for the GPS systems – to pin it or pen it.

“So, if you have pin-enabled technology to protect your GPS system, make sure it’s up and running and if not, daub your postcode onto kit using indelible ink. It might not look pretty but it’s a big deterrent to thieves who are stealing systems to sell on across the world. Anything that is identifiable and will trace the kit back to its owner will immediately put the thieves off.”

PC Chandler urged people in rural communities to report any suspicious activity around farms, however trivial, “as this might just provide us with the key piece of information we need”.

READ MORE: Rural crime campaigners demand changes to ‘archaic’ hare coursing lawsPatrick Verrell, NFU Mutual agent in Norfolk, added: “GPS technology plays such a vital role in modern day farming and thefts of systems have been debilitating for those who have been hit during the busy harvest period.

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“The thieves clearly know what they are looking for and we are getting reports of determined criminal gangs using a range of tactics to scope out and target farms. The feeling of being watched and targeted is adding to feelings of anxiety for those living and working in isolated areas.”

Farmers buying second-hand equipment are also being warned not to inadvertently buy stolen systems from what appear to be legitimate online sellers. Buyers are being advised to rigorously check where the systems have come from if buying from outside a dealership, and to be suspicious of anything that has had serial numbers removed.

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