Farmers are being offered free DNA marking kits to help protect GPS devices from criminals.

North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force are using the DNA marking system following concerns that organised criminals are stealing GPS devices typically used on tractors and other farm vehicles in rural areas.

They are targeted because of their high value and portability.

Police are now distributing free SelectaDNA kits to farms across York and North Yorkshire. A maximum of five kits are available for each farm. The marking solution lasts at least five years outdoors, and, when analysed, reveals a unique code that links property with its rightful owner.

The kits are funded by the Safer Streets Fund – a national programme to reduce and prevent crime using proven, evidence-based interventions.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Mark Earnshaw of North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce

Some farmers will be provided with kits proactively by the Rural Task Force, particularly those who have been victims of GPS theft in the recent past.

Kits will also be shared via local Rural Watch schemes, and available for free at drop-in sessions, including at agricultural retailers.

Sergeant David Lund, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force, said: “We understand the significant financial and emotional impact of having expensive GPS devices stolen. It’s why we’re proactively making sure farms in our area are protected – chances are, expensive equipment in our area is going to be coated with SelectaDNA or another forensic marking system.

“We continue to regularly patrol rural areas, keeping our farms and countryside a ‘no go zone’ for criminals, and we benefit from the excellent support of our communities, who often act as the eyes and ears of the police on the ground.

“If you see something suspicious, don’t hesitate to call it in. Your information could be crucial in catching criminals and recovering stolen property.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: The DNA kits being handed out to farms by North Yorkshire Police

Superintendent Andrew Huddleston, of the National Rural Crime Unit, said: “Organised crime groups are once again operating in the countryside, and they are targeting previous victims, especially those who have had GPS stolen in the last two years.

“Whilst there have been several recent successful arrests of those responsible, the new spate of GPS thefts shows how determined the organised criminal groups are, so we’re urging all farmers to be vigilant and take security steps. All police forces that have had GPS units stolen are part of a national group that are working together to tackle this threat and help protect the UK’s farming industry.

“It is vital that we receive information and intelligence to help us, so please can I urge farmers and members of the rural community that if you see any suspicious activity, particularly vehicles, moving around at any time of the day, please share this information on rural watch groups and with the police so we can arrest those responsible.”

Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, added: “This new wave of GPS theft is incredibly alarming, especially as farmers start gearing up for the busy harvest period.

“It is also worrying to hear that thieves are targeting farms who have previously had GPS stolen, especially when considering the financial and emotional impact these crimes have already had on those farmers.

“Together with the National Rural Crime Unit, we’re urging farmers to take all possible steps to protect their GPS equipment, such as removing them from tractors, combines and other machines where safe to do so and lock them somewhere securely when not in use.

“If it’s not practical to remove units from machines, try and park vehicles where they cannot be easily seen. Also consider forensically marking, painting or scratching your farm name or post code onto the GPS to make them less attractive to thieves and harder to sell on.”

NFU Mutual has published the following GPS security guide: 

  • Activate PIN security on GPS kit with your own unique number if available.
  • Mark your postcode on the unit’s case to deter thieves and trace your property 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.