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Hampshire farmers urged to be vigilant after new wave of GPS thefts in other counties

Farmers across the United Kingdom are being urged to be vigilant after a new wave of Global Positioning System (GPS) thefts in recent weeks, NFU Mutual and the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) have warned.

Intel has shown farms in Lincolnshire, Essex, Newport, North Yorkshire and Thames Valley have been targeted by organised criminals, with thieves looking to steal GPS systems.

Used to provide precision positioning for cultivation and harvesting operations on farms across the world, GPS systems have become one of the most targeted pieces of farm equipment because of their high value and portability.

Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “This new wave of GPS theft is incredibly alarming, especially as farmers 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. 
“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.”
Superintendent 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 we’re urging all farmers to be vigilant and take security steps. 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.”

The NFUM and NRCU have been working with manufacturers and Government to seek improved security and new legislation that will make the theft of machinery and GPS units harder. This new law will hopefully be announced later this year.

NFU Mutual GPS Security Guide;

•    Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number if available
•    Mark your postcode on the unit’s case 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

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Kieran Howard
(Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary, Communications Officer (Communities) , Eastleigh, Hedge End and New Forest)

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