Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Theft of tractor GPS kits add unwanted challenge to harvest

August 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Machinery

Rural thieves are making a challenging harvest even more difficult by stealing hi-tech computer systems from tractors and combine harvesters.

Theft of GPS equipment – sometimes worth upwards of £10,000 each – are being reported across the region at what is a key time of year. As well as elsewhere, recent incidents have been reported in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

PC Jonathan Chandler from Norfolk Police’s rural crime team is urging farmers to mark equipment prominently with their address or postcode. But it is often to no avail with stolen GPS kits resold on the black market or shipped out of the country.

“When we recover stolen kit it’s often hard to get it back to its owners because we can’t tell who they belong to,” said PC Chandler. “Even if you just paint your post code on your tools and machines it can make a huge difference.

Police action

“So far this year, 18 tractor GPS kits have been stolen from farms in the county,” he added. “Thefts are well organised and, carefully researched by criminals who travel the countryside to spot tractors equipped with GPS, and then return at night to steal the kits.”

Norfolk Police is working closely with manufacturers, the NaVCIS agricultural machinery theft co-ordination unit and NFU Mutual to tackle the networks behind this type of crime – which is threatening the growth of high-tech farm operations.

During spring 2020, a spate of telehandler thefts took place around the Norfolk and Lincolnshire border. Norfolk Police’s rural team mounted an operation to  break the supply chain used to export the vehicles and managed to recover a number of loaders.

Police are working closely with the county’s farming community and farmwatch groups to gather intelligence about thefts and suspicious activity. Information is shared among farmers across social media platforms to provide quick alerts when crimes take place.

Ripped out

NFU Suffolk chairman Glenn Buckingham, who farms at Framsden, had a John Deere Starfire 2630 GPS receiver unit and in-cab display stolen just as he was about to start harvest. The equipment was removed from a combine harvester while in storage.

“On the first day of our winter harvest, we went to the barn to find that someone had ripped out the screen – and I mean ripped it out because they actually broke the bracket – and of course the receiver has gone too.”

Mr Buckingham said it was the second time this year that GPS equipment had been stolen from his farm. It was likely that thieves had kept the farm under surveillance to see where machines were kept at night, he added.

“It makes you suspicious of anyone you see in the vicinity of the farm – which is not nice because most people are genuine and honest. But you start to question why people are parked where they park – and you notice things like wheel-marks in gateways.”