Bedfordshire farmer reveals the new technique rural thieves are using to detect GPS trackers

  • ITV Anglia reporter Ravneet Nandra spoke with Freya Morgan about the spate of rural crime she's experienced at her Bedfordshire farm

A farmer whose business was hit by thieves 10 times in a year has revealed the new ways in which gangs are attempting to outfox security measures such as GPS trackers.

Freya Morgan was forced to invest thousands in upgrading security at her north Bedfordshire farm after being repeatedly targeted in 2020, when her land was subject to fly-tipping, hare-coursing and theft.

She spent around £12,000 at the time on measures including about 50 lockable gates, installing a £4,000 electric entrance gate and digging ditches around the farm to limit vehicle access.

But she said gangs who targeted rural properties were adopting new methods to get around the trackers that are often fitted to high-value electronics and equipment - often by moving the items to see if their disappearance is noted.

"Some of the electronic stuff that gets stolen will not actually get stolen."

"They'll put it in a hedge, wrap it in foil or a black bin bag and then come back a few days later to see whether we've noticed it's gone or whether it's got a tracking system on it, and then we won't see it again."

She, alongside other farmers in the county, even resorted to hiring private security firms to carry out night-time patrols. This has not solved the problem - as she has been targeted five times in the past year.

Blocks have been moved and a vehicle has forced it's way into a farmers land Credit: Freya Morgan

Rural theft is estimated to have cost the UK £49.5m in 2022, up 22.1% on the previous year, according to statistics from the insurer NFU Mutual.

Most areas in the UK saw a rise in rural crime costs as thieves returned to the countryside and ramped up their activity after the pandemic years.

The East of England saw the cost of rural crime increase by 28.5% on the previous year to £6.6m in 2022, with nearly one-third of that - £2m - in Cambridgeshire alone.

Freya Morgan places heavy blocks at each set of gates to stop trespassers' vehicles. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The most common types of rural crime are fly-tipping, hare-coursing and theft - which includes machines, fuel and livestock. Farmers have also seen dog attacks on their livestock.

In an attempt to deter criminals, some farmers have dug ditches around their fields to stop drivers from crossing over their land and destroying their crops.

Ms Morgan is also using heavy blocks to place at each set of gates on her land to stop people coming through.

She said there had been recent improvements in rural crime across Bedfordshire after the NFU began working with Bedfordshire Police.

Some farmers have dug ditches around their farmland to deter drivers from crossing over their land and destroying their crops. Credit: ITV Anglia

She said police communication with the rural community had improved, the online crime reporting system had become more effective and police officers and call handlers had a better understanding of rural crime and its impact than in the past.

Bedfordshire Police’s rural crime action team has increased from six to 10, with one sergeant and nine police constables.

Stuart Grant, a wildlife crime officer with the force, said: "We have Whatsapp groups that we're a part of, which allows that real-time transfer of information between the farmers seeing things on the ground to us getting it.

"We have drones on the team now that we can use to help plug those holes."

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