Farms falling victim to e-scooter gangs

A farmer ploughs a field in North Yorkshire. Picture date: Wednesday March 10, 2021.
A farmer ploughs a field in North Yorkshire. Picture date: Wednesday March 10, 2021.

Gangs of 'rural wraiths' are using e-scooters to silently and quickly steal vital GPS systems from farms, according to NFU Mutual

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Gangs of "rural wraiths" are riding e-scooters onto farms and stealing GPS systems, an insurer NFU Mutual has said.

The silent scooters have helped the gangs to scarper at quickly and without being detected. Quad bikes are also being stolen, according to the insurer.

E-scooters are becoming more common in towns and cities.
E-scooters are becoming more common in towns and cities.

Insurance company said claims linked to the theft of GPS systems and vehicles stood at over £9 million last year, a two per cent reduction on 2019.

But, claims for stolen GPS systems alone have nearly doubled, reaching £2.9 million compared to the £1.5 million in the previous year.

DC Chris Piggott, from the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, a privately-funded police unit, said: "Rural thieves are becoming more and more sophisticated to get round high levels of security on modern farm machinery.

"The pattern we are increasingly seeing is of gangs who patiently watch farms from a distance to discover where expensive tractor GPS kit is stored.

"They generally return at night to steal, and are now using silent electric scooters to get into farmyards undetected and make off at high speed.

"Thieves are also becoming even slicker stealing quad bikes - watching for hours to rush into farm yards and steal them when they are left unattended for a few minutes."

However, the number of claims fell by 20 per cent to approximately £43.3 million during the UK's lockdowns in 2020.

A field of crops is sprayed near Tixover in Rutland.
A field of crops is sprayed near Tixover in Rutland.

Rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, Rebecca Davidson claimed assaults on farms had left farmers suffering with "huge anxiety".

"Coronavirus restrictions, beefed-up security on farms and more effective police rural crime teams provided a welcome fall in rural thefts last year," she said.

"While lockdown may have locked some criminals out of the countryside - rural crime hasn't gone away.

"Thieves are now returning armed with new tactics and targets. As the economic impact of the pandemic bites, we are very concerned that rural theft may escalate significantly.

"Last year saw sharp rises in other crimes such as dog attacks on livestock which caused appalling suffering to farm animals and huge anxiety for farmers and their families as they dealt with the aftermath.

"Organised criminal gangs also continued to target farmyards for high-value GPS systems, quad bikes and tractors with the cost of agricultural vehicle theft remaining at over £9 million - only a 2 per cent drop in cost from 2019."

Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex are the three worst-affected counties.