Farming News - Police warn of heightened criminal activity during Coronavirus outbreak

Police warn of heightened criminal activity during Coronavirus outbreak

Information from members of the farming community has played a vital role in two recent operations involving Warwickshire Police Rural Crime Team and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) which led to the recovery of a treasure trove of machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds which had been stolen from farms across the UK.

The first of the recoveries came from a Warwickshire farm on 13 March after police carried out routine enquiries on the premises and found machinery with identifying marks which raised suspicions.

Further investigation revealed other reported stolen and suspicious machinery and as a result equipment was seized including: a John Deere 6940 tractor, a JCB telehandler, Takeuchi mini excavator, a Kobelco large excavator, an Ifor Williams livestock trailer, and a hedge cutter. Arrests were made.

The second operation on 16 March, involved a raid on a site elsewhere in Warwickshire. Among the machinery and vehicles recovered were: six caravans, two livestock trailers, one small trailer, a mobile shower block, numerous power tools, a Ford Transit van and a Ford Focus. Police enquiries are ongoing.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at leading rural insurer NFU Mutual said: “These are great results and clearly show how police can take action to clamp down on rural criminals when they can make use of reports from individuals and farm watch groups on stolen equipment and suspicious sightings of people and vehicles.

“Since 2010 NFU Mutual has invested over £1.5m in rural security initiatives, including a specialist police resource that operates through NaVCIS to coordinate farm machinery theft intelligence shared between NFU Mutual, police forces, Border Force and Interpol. 

“These recoveries are a great example of the way dedicated police rural crime teams can make a difference working with NaVCIS to bring rural criminals to justice.”

Police Constable Andy Timmins from Warwickshire Police Rural Crime Team said: “We are extremely pleased to have made these recoveries – because we’ve been able to return stolen machinery to its owners and also send a clear and powerful message to criminals that Warwickshire Police does have the resources and determination to tackle organised rural crime.

“Thanks to the fact that we now have a Rural Crime Team with expertise in this area who have the time, resources and contacts to work on these issues, significantly more property was identified as stolen and suspects identified.”

Detective Constable Chris Piggott from NAVCIS said: “Police were able to seize these machines and make arrests thanks to information from farmers.

“Police forces do record these reports and use them to piece together trails which can lead to arrests being made – so it’s well worth taking the trouble to report suspicious activity, even when there doesn’t appear to be an immediate police response.

“There is no doubt that these were highly organised criminals. The recovered equipment has been traced back to owners across the UK, including kit from Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Thames Valley, West Yorkshire, Liverpool, and Bedfordshire.”

Chris urged farmers and country people to take all possible steps to secure farm equipment as thieves were likely to take advantage of isolated communities and stretched police resources during the Coronavirus outbreak to steal from farms.

“Many farm vehicles now have so-called smart keys containing electronic information needed to start the machine, so it’s vital that keys are removed from machines and stored securely in a remote location.

“Other measures including CESAR marking, immobilizers and tracking devices are effective in deterring thieves and aiding police recoveries.”

Current farm machinery theft reports indicate that ’hot spots’ for tractor and farm loader theft include Derbyshire Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

Thefts of quad bikes and other types of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are continuing to come in from all parts of the UK - with current ‘hot spots’ in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Hampshire.

For more information about rural security and rural crime trends, visit

NFU Mutual tips to secure your machine

1. Remove keys. Just as you wouldn’t leave the keys in your front door at home, store keys securely

2. Keep your machine locked up an out of sight. Thieves often stake out a farm before they raid, so where possible store machinery in a locked building or where it can’t be seen from the road

3. Use the CESAR marking and registration system. Markings make your property less attractive to criminals and can help recover your belongings if they are stolen

4. Install immobilisers and trackers on tractors and loaders. Thieves can’t take what they can’t start and won’t want to be found if they make off with your property

5. Know what you own. Take pictures of your vehicle and record serial numbers