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Vehicle and machinery theft 'a major blight' on Scottish countryside

By Gordon Calder

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THEFT from farms continues to be a major blight on the Scottish countryside but progress is being made, according to NFU Scotland and the police.

With vehicle, quad and machinery theft a common occurrence on Scottish farms and crofts, the union has highlighted the simple steps that can be taken to protect property against opportunistic and organised crime. The union is urging greater vigilance as a spike in incidents of rural crime is being seen in many parts.

NFU Scotland vice-president, Robin Traquair, said: "The threat of rural crime is ever present and there is a need for all who live and work in rural Scotland to remain vigilant and take steps that can help protect their livestock, property, vehicles and home. I urge you to secure vehicles, fuel, tools and property properly; invest in trackers and report suspicious people and vehicles to help in keeping crime at bay."

Writing in the union’s magazine, Inspector Alan Dron, Police Scotland’s National Rural Crime Co-ordinator stated: "Criminals are getting more intuitive and using smarter technology to carry out crimes, so any steps farmers, crofters and small holders can take to protect their property will help.

"Some criminals are using drones, Google Earth as well as more traditional drive-bys to check where security cameras, vehicles and machinery are stored, and spot if people are working on the farm or around buildings. They can relay this information to their partners on the ground and be in and out of a location without being noticed.

"Despite this and thanks to many farmers, crofters and smallholders already taking steps to protect their property, Police Scotland are managing to retrieve more and more stolen agricultural vehicles, plant and quads due to many businesses investing in smart technology, security and trackers to protect their property."

He went on: "Currently the popular targets are quads, trailers and tractors. There’s a market for them but sadly don’t be fooled into thinking lightning doesn’t strike twice. Quite often the thieves can return a few weeks after the initial incident as they know there will be a new replacement vehicle on site that is there for the taking. We do record several repeat offences.

"Personalising any vehicle will help with identification and recovery. Make notes about the vehicle identity number (VIN), distinguishing or unique features and take photos! Remember not all officers will be familiar with what a certain type of specialist equipment, tractor or quad will look like, so photos are ideal and easy to take on your phone any time.

"The more information you can share with the police the better. Based on the farmer’s description, we recovered a tractor which had been shipped overseas that still had the rightful owner’s furry dice and stickers in the cab. If you have a dent or anything added to the vehicle that’s personal then record that. It all helps."

Inspector Dron added: "It is also really important that you help us by reporting any crime or suspicious behaviour to 101 (or 999 if a crime is underway) and noting things like vehicle registrations. A small incident on your farm or croft may not mean much to you but if it happened to two or three or more of your neighbours then it suddenly becomes three of four reported incidents and strengthens evidence that we can work with.

"The more intelligence we have, the more likely we are to complete the jigsaw and track criminals down. Working together we can help protect rural Scotland against crime."

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