Farmers warned of surge in tractor GPS thefts

  • Agricultural vehicle Global Positioning Systems (GPS) under new attack from rural thieves
  • Thieves steal GPS kit worth over £130,000 from West Sussex farms
  • NFU Mutual offers security advice to protect hi-tech farm equipment

Farmers are being warned of a new rural crime wave after 24 tractor GPS kits were stolen from West Sussex farming businesses in a recent spate of rural crime.

The GPS kits, totalling over £130,000 were taken from farm businesses in a 10-15 mile radius from late February. Other farms in the South East have been targeted, with latest reports of thefts coming in from Oxfordshire.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “Theft of GPS equipment is now a serious problem for farmers.

“We first saw thieves targeting GPS equipment from arable farms in East Anglia and the crime has now spread to other parts of the country. Thieves appear to be targeting farms in one locality, and then moving their activity to another area to avoid detection.

“Used extensively by farmers to ensure that seed, fertiliser and sprays are delivered in precise amounts while also making harvesting more efficient, GPS kits typically cost over £10,000.

“Rural thieves tend to target high-value but portable items – and this appears to be what is driving this rural crime trend.

“In an attempt to stop thieves targeting GPS kit, manufacturers now provide PIN numbers to prevent the equipment being used by others.

“Most GPS kit in use on farms today is fitted to tractors as an easily-removable accessory. To prevent thefts, farmers have been removing the kit when it’s not in use and storing it under lock and key.

“Some tractors now incorporate GPS kit in the cab dashboard. We had hoped that this development would deter thieves – but we are now getting claims reported where thieves have smashed dashboards to remove GPS equipment, causing damage costing thousands of pounds to repair as well as the loss of the GPS unit.

“This trend is deeply worrying for farmers who are investing in hi-tech equipment to make their farms more efficient and reduce pollution.”

West Sussex farmer and NFU county chairman Mark Chandler explained that the most serious impact of GPS thefts was the disruption to farming operations.

“It takes about a week to replace a GPS system and get it set up ready for work, and that can mean missing a weather window putting a crop growth cycle at risk,” he said.

“These thefts are part of an ongoing crimewave with farmers feeling they are under siege from criminals ranging from hare coursers and opportunist thefts of tools to high organised gangs stealing expensive equipment.

“Crime is now a constant worry because police response can be very slow – it took 25 minutes for police to get to our farm the last time we were targeted.”

Tractor GPS security advice

  • Remove GPS guidance receivers, aerials and antenna globes from tractors when not in use and keep them in a secure locked place whenever possible
  • Consider fitting security tethers or brackets to stop units being removed
  • Mark your post code on GPS units either with a UV pen, engraving tool of forensic marking system such as Datatag
  • Store machinery in locked buildings whenever possible
  • Where locking machines away isn’t an option, consider fitting mains or battery-operated alarms to cover around the perimeter of areas where machines are stored
  • CCTV and intruder alarms will deter most thieves, but make sure they are checked regularly to ensure they will work when you need them and they are placed where they won’t be triggered by animals or foliage moving in the wind
  • Record machinery serial numbers and photograph kit to help police identify stolen items and increase the chances of them being recovered
  • Let employees know the security arrangements that are expected of them while working on the farm
  • Join local farmwatch or social media security groups to keep in touch with rural crime trends in your area
  • Encourage farm staff to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour or vehicles to the police on 101, or 999 in an emergency



Get Our E-Newsletter - breaking news to your in-box twice a week
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.