Farmers are being warned of a new rural crime wave after a spate of tractor GPS kit thefts across East Anglia.

Thieves have stolen GPS units and displays from a range of manufacturers and agricultural vehicles. Thefts have occured predominately in Norfolk and Suffolk but neighbouring counties have also been affected.

The NFU is now reminding members to protect their equipment and take whatever steps they can to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to gain access.

NFU county advisers are in touch with their local rural crime teams and raising the profile of this issue nationally as well. They are asking members to report any suspicious behaviour, particularly vehicle registration numbers, to the police via 101.

One of the victims was NFU Suffolk County Chairman Glenn Buckingham. The start of harvest on his farm near Framsden had to be delayed after thieves stole a Starfire 2630 GPS receiver unit and in-cab display, which costs around £9,800, from a combine harvester.

He told the East Anglian Daily Times: “I’m disappointed that we are in this situation.

“It’s insured, but you don’t want to keep claiming on the insurance and it’s the disruption as well and knowing someone’s been around your farm buildings. There is obviously a market for them somewhere.”

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “Theft of tractor GPS equipment is now a serious problem for farmers.

“Thieves appear to be targeting farms in one locality, and then moving their activity to another area to avoid detection.

“In an attempt to stop thieves targeting GPS kit, manufacturers now provide PIN numbers to prevent the equipment being used by others – but it appears that once stolen, the units are being passed on to other criminals who can bypass the security settings and sell on.”

Some manufacturers are moving towards integrating GPS units into the cabin structure, thus making them harder to steal. 

However, the display units are vulnerable so, where practicable to do so, access to the cab should made as difficult as possible, ideally through leaving the vehicle in a secure location overnight.

Tractor GPS security advice from NFU Mutual

  • 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 the perimeter of areas where machines are stored
  • Check CCTV and alarms regularly to ensure they work – they should be placed where they won’t be triggered by animals or foliage
  • Record machinery serial numbers and photograph kit to help police identify and recover stolen items
  • Inform employees about the security arrangements that are expected of them
  • Join local farmwatch groups to be warned of crime trends and share intelligence
  • Report suspicious behaviour or vehicles to the police on 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress.