Thieves have been targeting farms throughout Wales, particularly looking for high value items left unprotected.
The recent NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey of farmers across UK, revealed rural theft cost the UK an estimated £43.3m in 2020.
With the average rural theft claim rising by nearly £300 last year, Tracker, is urging the rural community to remain vigilant, review their security systems and to look at high-tech ways to protect their vehicles, farm equipment and machinery from savvy criminals.
Nationwide lockdowns may have temporarily deterred thieves – there was a decrease of 20% in 2020 compared to the previous year – but figures suggest that active thieves were looking to get more bang for their buck. Highly-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards over the pandemic, stealing high-value Tractor Global Positioning Systems, quad bikes and All-Terrain Vehicles.
Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison for Tracker said, “The reduction in the cost of rural theft is welcome news, but last year was no ordinary year; determined rural thieves have increased the value of their hauls under lockdown by targeting farmers’ expensive quad bikes and side-by-side utility terrain vehicles. These vehicles, which can cost twice as much as a regular quad, now represent 14% of all quad and ATV thefts, compared to 11% in 2019.
“Criminal gangs will steal to order and quickly ship the goods abroad to places like Eastern Europe and North Africa, and farming equipment is high on thieves shopping lists as demand continues to grow.”
The NFU Mutual Report notes that Tractor GPS’s have become the rural thieves’ top target across the globe. Gangs dubbed ‘Rural Wraiths’ are now using silent electric scooters to steal farmers’ £10,000 systems and make off along country lanes at high speed. Without GPS systems – an essential part of modern farming – harvests can be delayed and farmers are left unable to work.
“Lockdown may have locked criminals out of the countryside and caused a temporary reduction in theft, but now restrictions have lifted, it is likely thefts will pick up again.
“More people are foregoing their holidays abroad and heading for a rural retreat, and with more visitors in the countryside, local communities need to be extra vigilant about their property and always have security front of mind.
“Additional crime prevention measures such as blocking field entrances, digging ditches around fields are good physical deterrents, as is upgrading building security and installing CCTV.
“Another security strategy is to fit tracking units. Whilst it won’t necessarily stop the vehicle or equipment from being stolen, it will significantly increase the prospect of successful recovery and return to the rightful owner if this happens,” concludes Clive Wain.
“We are aware that very often information is shared locally on social media and online chat groups, which has proven to be a great asset in spreading the word. However, we also ask that if you see or hear anything suspicious taking place in your community, please also report it to the police at the time, as we cannot monitor all social media channels for information.”
Farming communities are also encouraged to review their own security, to install CCTV systems and security lighting on farm yards, along with other measures to make it difficult for criminals to operate, or at the very least to be a delay or deterrent to them.
Supt Davies added, “All too often, we arrive on farms to find gates open, keys left in quads, tools left lying around in open buildings, and trailers left parked in easily accessible locations.
“However, while we deal with a number of thieves who act opportunistically, some who are more determined will carry out reconnaissance visits of farms in order to locate high value items to steal at a later date.”
Farmers are urged to record the make and serial numbers of items, create an up to date inventory list of their property, and take photographs of each item. Easily removed items should be marked or stamped with the postcode, farm’s name or other identifying mark, and this is being promoted by Gwent Police this month.
Tools and small items of machinery should be locked in a secure building, and tractors, farm implements and valuable machinery should not be parked near or alongside public roads when not in use.
Farm gates should be locked with good quality chains or padlocks, and hinges should preferably be of the capped or inverted type to prevent easy removal. The installation of tracking devices on quad bikes, ATVs and other farm vehicles is highly encouraged, and has proven many times to be the most efficient way of recovering stolen property.
“Remember, we can’t act on something if we don’t know about it,” added Supt Davies. “No matter how insignificant it may seem, please report all suspicious activity to police immediately, and don’t assume someone else would have notified us.”