RASCS News

Revving Up Farm Security: Battling the Tractor Thieves

In the heart of Staffordshire and Shropshire, a quiet countryside has recently been rattled by a wave of tractor and telehandler thefts. It’s not just a minor inconvenience; we’re talking about a spree of 20 high-value tractor heists that have shaken the farming community. The culprits? a cunning, highly-organized criminal gang.

Picture this: August arrives, and as the summer sun warms the fields, the thieves swing into action. They’re not amateurs; they’ve got their sights set on farms that boast brand-new, high end tractors and loaders. And here’s the twist – they’re not just snatching these farming beasts and disappearing into the night. No, they’re slick operators, and they’re making a getaway through the motorway network, heading east towards Eastern Europe and beyond.

Now, it’s not every day you hear about such audacious thievery in the farming world. Experts in rural insurance are saying this is one of the most significant waves of high-value agricultural vehicle thefts they’ve ever seen in a specific region.

The head of Engineering from one of the UK’s largest rural insurers is offering security advice to farmers in both counties. “We’re in this together,” he says, and they’re working hand in hand with the rural policing unit, backed by our significant resources, to track down these culprits. According to him, these tractor thefts are a wake-up call. It’s time to fortify, to ensure that these cunning thieves can’t get their hands on our farming workhorses.

Superintendent Andy Huddleston, who leads the newly-formed National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) is on the front lines, and he’s got a clear message that this isn’t the work of small-time crooks. We’re dealing with a highly-organized criminal outfit here. What’s remarkable is that they’re not just swiping any tractors; they’re targeting the new, shiny ones, worth a whopping £100,000 each.

But here’s where it gets even more interesting – they’re not making a beeline for the chop shop. They’re stashing these hot commodities in secluded spots, out of sight and out of mind for a few days. It’s a tactic to evade detection, especially if any tracking devices are hidden away on these machines.

And what’s their ultimate plan? Well, it’s pretty clear – these stolen treasures are bound for foreign shores, with Eastern Europe in their crosshairs as a lucrative market.

The good news is, we’ve got specialists on the case. The NRCU is pulling together resources from all over the UK, working in harmony to crack down on these crooks, both domestically and overseas.

Now, let’s shift gears a bit. Tractors and loaders these days come with some nifty security features. Most are a tough nut to crack if the keys are safely tucked away and security systems are engaged. Superintendent Huddleston recommends some basic yet highly effective security measures: locking those yard gates, installing security lights, motion detector alarms, and CCTV cameras. It’s all about deterring those thieves.

A leading UK insurer has crunched the numbers, and they’re showing a 29% spike in agricultural vehicle claims, hitting a staggering £11.7 million in 2022. Gangs are cashing in on the rising prices and limited availability of these prized machines.

So, what can you do to protect your machinery? Follow this handy tractor and agricultural vehicle security checklist:

  • Be vigilant, look out for unusual activity and brief all of your staff and contractors to do the same. Inform the Police if you see any suspicious behaviours.
  • Be suspicious of people flying drones over your land and buildings – they could be checking out your value as a potential target.
  • Lock yard gates at night to send potential drive-through thieves packing.
  • Safeguard your vehicle keys in a secure, separate location.
  • Check security lights, alarms, and cameras – ensure they’re in tip-top shape and upgrade if needed.
  • Keep your vehicles out of sight from nearby roads.
  • Consider infra-red beam alarms, CCTV systems, and floodlights to guard your farm yards.
  • Connect with your local farm watch group or a WhatsApp network to stay in the loop about rural crime trends and any suspicious activity.
  • Invest in trackers and immobilizers – they not only deter thieves but can also aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles.
  • Don’t forget the CESAR marking and registration system – a proven defense against theft (Construction and Agriculture Equipment Security and Registration scheme).

So, farmers, it’s time to rev up your security game. Let’s make sure these tractor thieves find the going tough and leave our hard-earned machinery right where it belongs – on your farm.

Coming soon – Rural Crime Prevention Training – Watch This Space!!!!!