Rural insurer NFU Mutual has said that a “new wave” of GPS thefts is “incredibly alarming”, and has issued a security alert for farmers alongside the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU).

NFU Mutual said its intel has shown farms in Lincolnshire, Essex, Newport, North Yorkshire and Thames Valley have been targeted by organised criminals.

The insurer’s latest figures reveal the UK cost of GPS theft increased by 15% to £1.8 million in 2022.

NFU Mutual’s rural affairs specialist, Hannah Binns, said the recent spate of GPS thefts is especially concerning for farmers as they start gearing up for the busy harvest period.

“It is also worrying to hear that thieves are targeting farms who have previously had GPS stolen, especially when considering the financial and emotional impact these crimes have already had on those farmers,” she said.

“Together with the National Rural Crime Unit, we’re urging farmers to take all possible steps to protect their GPS equipment, such as removing them from tractors, combines and other machines where safe to do so and lock them somewhere securely when not in use.

“If it’s not practical to remove units from machines, try and park vehicles where they cannot be easily seen.

“Also consider forensically marking, painting or scratching your farm name or post code onto the GPS to make them less attractive to thieves and harder to sell on.”

Rural thefts

Supt Andrew Huddleston, who leads the NRCU, said organised crime groups are once again operating in the countryside, and they are targeting previous victims, especially those who have had GPS stolen in the last two years.

“Whilst there have been several recent successful arrests of those responsible, the new spate of GPS thefts shows how determined the organised criminal groups are, so we’re urging all farmers to be vigilant and take security steps,” he said.

“All police forces that have had GPS units stolen are part of a national group that are working together to tackle this threat and help protect the UKs farming industry.

“It is vital that we receive information and intelligence to help us, so please can I urge farmers and members of the rural community that if you see any suspicious activity, particularly vehicles, moving around at any time of the day, please share this information on rural watch groups and with the police so we can arrest those responsible.”

Secure your GPS

NFU Mutual has released advice to help farmers secure their GPS. Tips in the NFU Mutual GPS Security Guide include:

  • Activate PIN security on your GPS kit with your own unique number;
  • Mark your postcode on the unit’s case to deter thieves and trace your property back to you;
  • Keep tractors and combines with GPS stored out of sight whenever possible;
  • Remove GPS kit from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use;
  • Record serial numbers and photograph your kit;
  • Return tractors and combines to the farm yard at night whenever possible;
  • Always remove keys and store them securely;
  • Keep farm yard gates closed and lock up buildings at night;
  • Consider installing CCTV or infra-red movement sensors in the yard;
  • Instruct staff to be on alert out for unknown people in the farm yard – they may be thieves using harvest time as expected visitors who use harvest time as an excuse to get into farm yards unchallenged, NFU Mutual said;
  • Be wary of second hand GPS kit offered for sale and check serial numbers before buying.