A spate of tractor thefts has prompted Nottinghamshire Police to install high-tech tracker devices in their cars so they can catch criminals red-handed.
The force recovered two tractors earlier this year after they were stolen locally, returning them to their rightful owners intact.
Both vehicles were fitted with tracker equipment and that many high-value vehicles now have this installed so they can be more easily recovered.
This prompted officers in Newark to seek similar tracking devices for police vehicles, as this will help them to be able to quickly locate vehicles which are reported stolen – perhaps even catching would-be thieves in the act.
The device works like a compass with an arrow which directs the user to the tracker location.
A company called Tracker has now provided 15 devices free-of-charge to the force and they have been fitted to the vehicles, some of which are also fitted with automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR).
This fleet is now being used by operational support, response, neighbourhoods and Operation Reacher teams right across the rural areas of Nottinghamshire.
This initiative is all part of a wider crackdown on rural crime following an increase in high-value rural vehicles and heavy machinery being stolen from farms and business locally.
This included £150,000 worth of machines used for industrial activity, such as diggers and a dumper, reported stolen from a business in Cotgrave late last year.
The force’s new rural crime lead, Chief Inspector Heather Sutton, has now set up a committee with partners such as the National Farmers’ Union and Country Landowners Association, to look at all these issues.
Other recent schemes have included a new toolkit being given to officers to use when dealing with rural crime. The specialist app is downloaded onto every officer’s mobile phone and includes documents that clearly sets out the legislation and powers for rural and wildlife crime matters.
Combined with this there has also been several rural crime operations taking place across the county, including in Rushcliffe, aimed at cracking down on criminals who travel between Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. This followed reports of high-value thefts and burglaries of off-road vehicles and power tools stolen from outbuildings, farms and businesses.
This included four vehicles which were found broken up on a site in Spring View, Screveton following a warrant in April this year, which are believed to have been stolen from South Yorkshire.
Chief Inspector Sutton said: “The new tracker equipment will enable us to provide a quick response when machinery or vehicles are stolen in a bid to locate them straight away and we are very grateful to have been given these devices for free.
“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.
“We won’t tolerate this in Nottinghamshire and have initiated a strong response which has seen some really positive results so far.
“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 and will continue our work rural areas to stop criminals in the tracks.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry welcomed the technological windfall, adding: “Technology can help to keep us, and our property, safe. Tractors and other farming equipment represent a large investment and anything that deters criminals and assist the police in locating stolen vehicles and agricultural equipment has to be good news.
“Tackling rural crime is a key part of my future plans and I will be watching the progress of this and other rural initiatives closely.”
Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, said: “We have a long-standing partnership with the police across the UK, who utilise our unique technology to not only assist in the recovery of stolen vehicles fitted with one of our tracking solutions but also, on many occasions, lead to the apprehension of offenders and the dismantling of organised crime groups.
“We are delighted to be further enhancing the capability of Nottinghamshire Police to protect its community against criminals who are increasingly employing sophisticated methods to steal cars, motorcycles and caravans and achieve speedy, successful recovery outcomes in the event of a vehicle theft.”