Farmers are being urged to increase security in their farmyards and fields as GPS thefts ramp up in recent months.

Latest figures from NFU Mutual reveal the UK cost of GPS theft has gone up 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2023, compared to the same period last year.

And in recent weeks, thefts of expensive GPS equipment have been reported in Durham, sparking concern other parts of the UK could be next as criminal gangs move locations to avoid detection.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers to increase their security as thieves look to cash in on increased farmyard and field work activities.

Andrew Cuthbertson, senior agent at NFU Mutual’s Durham Agency, said: “It is extremely concerning that thieves are taking advantage of increased spring activity in Durham to identify targets and steal all makes and models of GPS control units, together with screens and domes.

“As well as stealing vital equipment, criminals are leaving a trail of damage as they smash glass to gain access and crudely cut wires. Not only is this costly, but the theft of GPS kits can hinder farming operations as well as place additional pressures on the business.

“We’re urging all farmers to be on their guard and review and update their security, such as removing GPS equipment when not in use and storing it away from the machines. It is also worth taking pictures of the kit and recording any serial numbers.”

DC Chris Piggott, from the National Construction and Agri Thefts Team (NCATT), which forms part of the National Rural Crime Unit, added: “Intelligence shows offenders are willing to travel the length and breadth of the country to steal GPS kits and immediately export them out of the country.

“There is nowhere that they will not go, and these criminals have been targeting agricultural machinery dealerships as well as farms. It is incredibly important people remove GPS equipment from their machines and store it elsewhere.

“It may seem impractical, but GPS kits are hard to replace and if stolen, will severely impact a farm’s ability to carry out vital fieldwork.

“I’d also encourage anyone to overtly mark them so that they are undesirable for resale purposes. I’ve seen GPS kits which were nicked in the night but dumped when the marking was discovered. Make the marks identify the GPS kit as yours, such as putting a postcode or farm name.

“Also, if you have been a victim of this type of crime before, then I’d urge you to be extra vigilant as thieves are willing to target locations they already know and feel comfortable operating in.”

To protect GPS systems from thieves, NFU Mutual has issued farmers the following advice:

  • Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number if available;
  • If your system is not pin enabled, mark your postcode to deter thieves and trace your property back to you;
  • Keep tractors and combines with GPS fitted stored out of sight when possible;
  • Remove GPS kit when possible from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use;
  • Record serial numbers and photograph your kit;
  • Check serial numbers of second-hand kit offered for sale.