FARMERS in Devon 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% in the first quarter of 2023, compared to the same period last year.

During March, theft of expensive GPS equipment has been reported in Devon, sparking concern other parts of the UK could be next as criminals 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.

Sarah Potter, Agent at NFU Mutual’s Totnes Agency, said: 'It is extremely concerning that thieves are taking advantage of increased spring activity in Devon to identify targets and steal all makes and models of GPS control units, together with screens and domes.

'Stealing this vital equipment 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.'

Martin Beck, Rural Affairs Officer for Devon and Cornwall, said:“Intelligence shows offenders are willing to travel the length and breadth of the country to steal GPS kits.

'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, or take good security measures.

'It may seem impractical to remove them, 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. We’ve seen GPS kits which were nicked in the night but dumped by the thief when the marking was discovered. Make the marks identify the GPS kit as yours, such as including a postcode, farm name or forensic marking.

'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 may 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 or use forensic marking so that your property can be traced 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
  • If you see suspicious behaviours near farms, record what you see, the police may later need that information