VEHICLE RECOVERY STATISTICS.
TRACKER – RURAL VEHICLE THEFT IN SCOTLAND
Andy Barrs is the Head of Police Liaison for TRACKER Network UK which is the largest and most established stolen vehicle tracking/recovery business in the UK, with over 1.2 million tracking devices currently deployed. TRACKER is the only company that installs its police detection computers in every UK police force, including Northern Ireland. Unlike other devices, TRACKER’s unique VHF technology is able to locate stolen vehicles anywhere, even when they are hidden in a garage, container or underground car park. In this article Andy talks about Tracker’s experience of rural vehicle crime in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.
It is estimated that the theft of plant and agricultural machinery costs an estimated £1million every week in the UK. Whilst Scotland overall witnessed a slight decrease in rural crime last year, the overall picture isn’t consistent everywhere, since certain categories of vehicle theft have increased steadily. Speaking about the £1.8m NFU Mutual (Scotland) paid out in 2015, a senior manager from the company recently commented that “vehicle crime is a major concern in Scotland and we have seen a dramatic increase in claims around quad bikes.”
Additionally, not all rural communities have witnessed the same levels of vehicle crime, for example Midlothian, Ayrshire, Inverness-shire, Fife and Dumbartonshire have witnessed year on year increases together with Perthshire, Clackmannanshire and Banffshire – predominantly those counties in close proximity to urban areas where, dare I suggest, ‘townie’ criminals like to prey.
Whilst some areas of Scotland have taken a battering recently, England has suffered much worse. Shown below are the UK’s most recent reported statistics for stolen agricultural/plant machinery bet. Apr-Jun 2015
|AGRICULTURAL THEFTS BY REGION (Apr-Jun 2015)|
|2||YORKSHIRE & NE||101|
|3||EAST MIDS & ANGLIA||59|
|7||SCOTLAND & NI||25|
|9||BRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE & MINISTRY OF DEFENCE||6|
Under-reporting of rural vehicle crime also represents a significant issue, with various rural crime surveys indicating this currently stands in the region of at least 20% – a common explanation for non-reporting being that many farmers simply can’t afford to insure all their assets and accordingly see little point in reporting offences to the police since they have little hope of it ever being recovered. A significant challenge in Scotland is that there is no collective recording of rural crimes by Police Scotland, so it’s really difficult to gain an accurate picture of what the rural crime landscape looks like, and the picture isn’t much better south of the border either – largely attributable to the way in which the police are asked to record crime by central government.
As a company, TRACKER works closely with Police Scotland to recover stolen vehicles and the recent formation of the ‘Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime; (SPARC) by Chief Superintendent Gavin Robertson and other partners including NFU Scotland is to be applauded. Nonetheless, the experience of our customers nationally is that very little will stand in the way of determined thieves and, if they really want to steal a high value quad or tractor they will take it. Whilst security marking schemes have their place in preventing crime, a vehicle can only be identified if it can be recovered in the first place, which is why our company is so successful in reuniting owners with their vehicles/equipment. Combined with the growing ineffectiveness of immobilisers and historic problems associated with ‘universal’ ignition keys on many older items of agricultural machinery; a recent report on vehicle crime has suggested that vehicle tracking technology could represent a new ‘third-wave’ in the fight against vehicle crime, particularly since 53% of all stolen vehicles in the UK are never recovered. Accordingly, there is a clear demand for technology that stands a realistic chance of (a) identifying/arresting offenders (b) bringing them to justice and (c) reuniting owners with their vehicles/assets – in my view fitting a TRACKER is the answer.
So what’s the picture in terms of rural vehicle crime? According to the Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU), the bulk of what is being stolen today are smaller compact items of machinery that can be easily transported inside light commercial vehicles, with Quad bikes representing a common target for thieves.
Certainly in terms of the more valuable pieces of farm machinery like tractors and tele-handlers, there is currently a global market ready and waiting, particularly in the Far East and Africa. For example, the tele-handler shown below was recently returned to Felixstowe Port by Saudi Customs and was found to have been originally stolen from a farm in South Yorkshire. Indeed, thefts of JCB and Manitou tele-handlers are currently on the increase.
Additionally, the tele-handler below was stolen from a farm in Rutland and within two hours was recovered by Hertfordshire police on the M25 in the rear of a Lithuanian registered articulated lorry bound for Eastern Europe – only possible because it was fitted with one of our market-leading VHF TRACKER units:
It is well known that criminals prefer to steal property where they can easily remove or change the original manufacturer’s identification numbers or marks. Tampering with these important identification numbers makes the stolen property less likely to be identified and hinders the police in tracing the real owner, which is why the Caesar marking system used by our partners at Datatag is such a good means of deterring thieves. The Datatag security system comprises a range of methods for identifying a stolen vehicle and its components, including: an ultraviolet ‘microdot’ fluid which uniquely identifies the vehicle and can be applied to any surface, an acid etching kit with a security number, and two microchips (like those used to track a pet).
In Scotland there is evidence to suggest that stolen farm equipment is ending up in sealed containers at major ports like Grangemouth and Cairnryan, only to be shipped to a plethora of global destinations. Fortunately, TRACKER has provided its detection equipment to ports police across the UK including those covered by Police Scotland, so we regularly see assets fitted with our products recovered in ports. Shown below is a lorry load of stolen plant and agricultural machinery recently discovered at a major UK port – only possible due to one of the machines being fitted with a TRACKER unit.
Indeed, whilst the theft of new machinery has declined due to secure marking schemes such as Caesar, the theft of older vehicles and equipment has increased, particularly in the case of more valuable assets, e.g. tractors. South of the border, East Anglia, the Midlands and the South East have witnessed a 15% increase in tractor thefts. The John Deere tractor shown below was one of two tractors recently stolen in Lincolnshire, where evidence suggests the vehicles had been driven over 60 miles to a Travellers site on A class roads without being challenged – the unfortunate reality is the vast majority of people, don’t actually think that tractors get stolen. The value of the two tractors in this case was £190,000 and guess what? – No TRACKER was fitted on either.
Some people often counter that it doesn’t really matter because the insurance company will settle the claim – yes they will if it’s insured and even if it is, the farmer will have the costly inconvenience of trying to source a temporary replacement and the inevitable reduction in productivity, not to mention the increase in next year’s premium – so obviously you’d expect me to argue that money spent on a TRACKER device makes sound economic business sense?
Quad thefts are a particular concern in Scotland which is why we see an increasing number of Quad owners are turning to Tracker to protect their vehicles. Indeed, Scotland and the Midlands are currently the top Quad theft hotspots in the UK. The most recent UK-wide recorded statistics (Apr-Jun 2015) for Quad thefts by make is shown below:
|Make of Quad||Number stolen|
The chart shown below identifies the most common stolen plant/agricultural machinery by make, but it should be noted that the high numbers of John Deere thefts here are predominantly attributable to smaller items of machinery, e.g. ride on mowers and utility trucks – again, easy to steal items that can be quickly concealed in light goods vans.
|MOST POPULAR STOLEN BY MANUFACTURER (Apr-Jun 2015)|
Working in partnership with NFU Mutual and Datatag, TRACKER currently has some terrific deals for Scottish Farmers at the moment, with heavily discounted products resulting in significant reductions on NFU Mutual policies of up to 25% – TRACKER urges you to protect your machinery NOW!