NFU Mutual warns farmers to be on their guard as criminals target expensive tractors

Initial claims estimates confirm the rise in the number of stolen tractors, with the leading rural insurer predicting a 20% increase in thefts by the end of 2022.

Highly organized thieves using a stolen articulated lorry to transport expensive tractors and loaders raided farms in Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire. Criminals also steal tractor GPS kits, which usually cost £10,000.

In the latest raid, two near-new John Deere tractors were stolen from a farm in Cambridgeshire, along with a number of GPS kits. Both tractors were recovered within hours from Thurrock Highway Services by Essex Police.

Bob Henderson, technical engineering manager at NFU Mutual, said: “We are concerned that this series of raids will mark a return to organized tractor thefts on our farms.

“We haven’t seen this level of organized raids by tractor thieves in over two years. During the pandemic, we’ve seen criminals turn to smaller, more portable kits, but these latest tractor thefts show we need to up our game to keep thieves at bay.

“As the nation’s leading farmer insurer, we know that the theft of vital vehicles and the GPS equipment that controls them is incredibly disruptive, causing anxiety and concern for families who live in remote areas.

“We are responding to the new threat by helping farmers put in place effective safety measures and continuing to provide major support to enable dedicated law enforcement resources to tackle farm vehicle crime.”

NFU Mutual is warning farmers to be on their guard as criminals target expensive tractors.

Detective Constable Chris Piggott has led the NaVCIS Farm Vehicle Theft Unit for 10 years. The unit provides intelligence, training and works directly with police forces across the country to combat rural crime, in addition to joint international operations to recover machinery stolen overseas.

He said: “Proactive policing made it possible to quickly recover the two recently stolen John Deere tractors in Cambridgeshire.

“However, today’s organized crime gangs have long tentacles, so farms are always high risk. Gangs also tend to move their illegal activities to a new area when farmers and police step up local security and patrols.

“It’s clear that tractor thieves are now looking to agricultural workshops and offices to find tractor keys and stored GPS equipment, so keeping them locked away in a separate location from vehicles is more important than ever.”

NFU Mutual Tractor and Large Farm Vehicle Safety Checklist:

– Close and lock yard gates at night to deter thieves driving

– Keep vehicle keys securely locked in a separate location

– Check that security lighting, alarms and cameras are working properly and update them if necessary

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

– Consider infrared beam alarms, CCTV systems and floodlights to protect farmyards

– Join a local farm watch group or WhatsApp network to keep up to date with local rural crime trends and suspicious sightings

– Install trackers and immobilizers to deter thieves and facilitate the recovery of stolen vehicles

– Use the CESAR marking and registration system

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