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Forces back tracking devices in bid to beat rural crime

A vehicle tracking firm is strengthening its ties with UK forces by focusing on rural crime prevention.

Link ups between rural crime teams and a vehicle security firm are being increased in a bid to improve the recovery rates of farm machinery and cars.

Two forces have become the latest to team up with Tracker to cut the response times when thieves take high-value tractors, trailers or quad bikes.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland and Nottinghamshire have confirmed partnerships with the firm following a spate of high-value tractor thefts.

Tracker has provided 15 devices free-of-charge to Nottinghamshire after two farm vehicles were returned to their owner thanks to the firm’s technology.

PSNI has launched a similar initiative across the Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council area.

The technology works like a compass, directing traffic or rural response officers to a homing device. It combines VHF with GPS/GSM technology so it cannot be jammed. When combined with ANPR, it enables faster identification and recovery.

Signing up to the system costs as little as £200 a year for the owner which can be reduced through lower insurance premiums. Against the £150,000 cost of a tractor, it’s a small investment to help protect a business.

The firm has already proved its success in finding high-value performance cars in partnership with a number of other forces including Essex Police.

The rise in rural crime, due to a switch in tactics by organised crime gangs, has led to forces looking at more ways to beat the gangs.

The OCGs are targeting quads and farming equipment  that have no registration plates and are easy to transport. The vehicles are then left in an isolated place to see if a tracking device is fitted. If not, they are either sold on or stripped for parts.

Nottinghamshire’s rural crime lead, Chief Inspector Heather Sutton, said: “There won’t be anywhere for thieves to hide the stolen items as once we’ve tracked down a location we can then carry out an area search, which includes sifting through long grass and woodland until the item is recovered.

“We recognise that rural businesses have been deliberately targeted due to having expensive machinery that can then be sold on elsewhere by criminals or used for their parts,” she added.

“These high-value thefts can be absolutely devastating for businesses by causing stress and even, in some circumstances, contribute to financial hardship. We want to do everything we can to prevent this happening.”

PSNI said the partnership was vital because of the wider impact on agri-businesses.

Superintendent Brian Kee, speaking on behalf of the force's Rural Crime Partnership, said: “It is heartening to note that there was a fall in rural crime of 24% on the previous 12 months and continuing the downward trend seen since 2010/11.

“However, statistics only tell part of the story. They don’t account for the impact this type of crime can have on a farm business and a community.”

The firm has begun deepening its links with forces across the country and last month announced a key appointment to help meet its growing commitments.

Steve Whittaker joined as Police Liaison Manager after 32 years in the Service. He joined from the National Crime Agency where he was overseeing historic cases and had previous roles with Leicestershire and South Yorkshire.

His experience includes firearm cases, serious and complex investigations, burglary, robbery and vehicle crime.

He said: “This is a new chapter in my career, where I can bring the wealth of my experience to assist Tracker in tackling the problem of vehicle crime.

“Working under the leadership of Clive Wain, I look forward to using my expertise in the area of vehicle crime and organised crime networks, as well as help build on already successful partnerships with UK police forces.”

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