Officers investigating a spate of tractor global positioning system thefts across the North West have arrested three people.
Cheshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team have been leading an investigation into the thefts since the back end of last year, in collaboration with the farming community and Merseyside Police’s Wildlife Crime Team and Lancashire Police’s Rural Task Force.
In the early hours of Thursday 13 May officers searched two addresses in the Bootle area of Sefton, Merseyside.
They arrested three people from Merseyside – men aged 24 and 23, and a 25-year-old woman – on suspicion of conspiracy to steal.
The officers also seized three vehicles that morning as part of the investigation.
Superintendent Simon Meegan, the head of rural and wildlife crime at Cheshire Constabulary, said: “Thieves target tractor global positioning systems all over the world, and there have been a spate of such thefts across the North West of England in recent times.
“All makes and models of GPS control units are targeted by thieves, together with screens and domes.
“In Cheshire alone, we estimate that around half a million pounds worth of GPS equipment has been stolen since the back end of last year.
“The substantial impact for victims does not just relate to the cost of the tractor GPS itself. Having the equipment stolen from them also hinders subsequent work at their farm and affects their livelihood.
“Our investigation into the thefts, working alongside Lancashire Police and Merseyside Police as well as the farming community, has led to three people from Merseyside being arrested and three vehicles being seized.
“The two men and one woman who were arrested have all been interviewed in custody and subsequently released under investigation pending further enquiries.
“A range of enquiries in relation to the tractor GPS thefts are ongoing.
“Whilst we undertake these enquiries I urge anyone with such equipment to review your security measures and take steps to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of this type of crime.”
Farmers are urged to:
- Consider improving security in farmyards, machinery sheds and on tractors to make it more difficult for thieves to target GPS equipment
- Activate PIN number security codes
- On older models without PIN security, mark kit with farm names and postcodes in indelible ink or forensically to make it harder for thieves to sell it on and help the police and potential buyers spot stolen equipment
- Keep tractors and combines with GPS equipment fitted stored out of sight when possible
- Remove the GPS kit from tractors and other machinery when possible and store it securely when not in use
- Record serial numbers and photograph your kit.
They are also asked to report any suspicious behaviour to the police, such as drones flying over their farms, vehicles they don’t know visiting or people they don’t know trespassing.
The registration numbers of any vehicles involved in suspicious behaviour should be noted and given to the police.
To report suspicious behaviour, farmers should call the police on 101. If a crime is taking place, the number to dial is 999.
Superintendent Meegan added: “Thieves steal tractor GPS equipment to sell it on.
“As such, it is essential that anyone looking to buy such equipment online gets photographs of serial numbers and checks with the manufacturer that it is not recorded as stolen before they part with any money.”