Farmers told to 'pin it or pen it' to deter GPS thieves

Continued GPS thefts by tech savvy thieves has led to calls for farmers to ensure their property is secure by using pin enabled technology. The cost of rural crime in the UK reached an eight year high last year as criminal gangs continue to target the countryside, including vital GPS systems. The technology plays a vital role in modern day farming and thefts of systems have been debilitating for farmers who have been hit during the busy harvest period.

Farmers are now being warned to ‘pin it or pen it’ when it comes to protecting tractor GPS. While some kits come with pin enabled security, farmers can get back to basics and indelibly daub postcodes onto their systems to deter criminals. NFU Mutual said it was seeing an increase in reports of all makes and models of GPS being stolen from farms and machinery dealerships across the UK.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “While replacement systems can be sourced, farmers are working to tight weather windows and it takes time to get up and running again. “The thieves clearly know what they are looking for and we are getting reports of determined criminal gangs using drones to scope out farms, or carefully planning routes around CCTV surveillance to avoid being caught. “The feeling of being watched and targeted is adding to feelings of anxiety for those living and working in isolated areas,” she said.

The National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) said the message to farmers was simple – ‘pin it or pen it’. “If you have pin enabled technology to protect your GPS system, make sure it’s up and running and if not, daub your postcode onto kit using indelible ink,” DC Chris Piggott of NaVCIS said. “It might not look pretty but it’s a big deterrent to thieves who are stealing systems to sell on across the world.

Anything that is identifiable and will trace the kit back to its owner will immediately put the thieves off. “Also make sure you report any suspicious sightings to police, which can help build up a picture and share intelligence with other forces.” Farmers buying second hand kit are also urged not to inadvertently buy stolen systems from what appear to be bona fide online sellers.

Both groups have called on buyers to rigorously check where the systems have come from if buying from outside a dealership, and to be suspicious of anything that has had serial numbers removed. Although all makes and models of GPS are being stolen, to help the checking process, John Deere has a system enabling farmers to call their local dealership to check the serial number of its StarFire GPS system. The firm’s database includes a marker for stolen equipment – but stresses that not all John Deere thefts are reported to it, and that the system cannot provide proof that equipment offered for sale online is legitimate.

If John Deere equipment has been stolen, the theft can be reported to local John Deere dealers so it can be logged in the system. To make it more difficult for criminals to sell-on stolen StarFire GPS systems, John Deere included a PIN security feature in its StarFire 6000 series, launched in February 2019. How can I better protect tractor GPS systems?

NFU Mutual has issued a GPS security checklist for farmers: o Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number if available o If your system is not pin enabled, mark your postcode with indelible ink to deter thieves and trace your property back to you

o Keep tractors and combines with GPS fitted stored out of sight when possible

o Remove GPS kit from tractors and other machinery and store it securely when not in use

o Check serial numbers of second-hand kit offered for sale

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