‘They follow you and see where you go’: Farmers describe ‘clever’ equipment thieves

Majority of farmers have been victims of crime, research shows, with some thefts showing clear planning

Farmers who have been the victims of crime have told of the high level of preparation on display from the thieves, with specific equipment apparently targeted in many cases.

As research shows the majority of farmers have suffered such theft, several told The Irish Times that their experience of crime has left them wary and changing their own behaviour.

Bernard Ging (47), Strabo, Portlaoise was the victim of a theft of €15,000 worth of farm equipment in January.

“I was going through the yard to do the milking, when I noticed the commercial farm jeep was missing,” he says. “They reversed it up to the workshop and put a power-washer, battery powered tools, general electrical tools, welders, grinders, drills, spanners, sockets, anything they could fit, into the jeep.”


The robbers also had another pile of equipment prepared to take away in another of Ging’s jeeps, but luckily were unable to properly drive this vehicle and so abandoned it.

Instead of using the main entrance, the robbers used an access gate to gain entry to the farm yard.

“They were clever, as the main entrance has sensor lights,” he says. “As well as that, they were up around a neighbour’s yard beforehand, where the alarm went off and so they scarpered from there.”

New research published last Friday from Technological University Dublin (TUD) showed that over half of farmers (55 per cent) have been victims of theft.

Some 17 per cent of the 1,330 farmers surveyed last autumn reported that their home had been burgled, while 28 per cent reported thefts from sheds and farm buildings with 59 per cent of these occurring in the last three years and 13 per cent in the last year. While most farmers (71 per cent) reported thefts to An Garda Síochána, a proportion of those participating in the survey did not.

In his case, Ging contacted the Gardaí who came out the following morning and took his statement. “They were adamant that the jeep was taken to be used in other robberies,” he says, “and it was, later that night, used to rob a pub and subsequently in two or three other robberies.”

Later, on a building site in Tullamore, the Gardaí came across Bernard’s jeep and the robbers, who crashed the jeep and then made their escape on foot. “The jeep was deemed too badly damaged to be repaired,” he says “and I’m still awaiting payment on the insurance, but it’s nearly over the line.”

The robbery has had a lasting effect on Bernard. “I am more wary. Before this I would normally walk from my house to the yard but now, like I’m not cowardly, but I’m just more conscious of not walking up at night. Driving up to the yard makes a noise that might just make any intruders get out of there,” he says.

Stephen Mohan (36), Navan is an agricultural contractor who harvests mainly silage and maize and also spreads slurry and dung.

In May, €15,000 worth of GPS receivers and power tools were stolen from his yard, which although along a road, is “still fairly secluded”, he says.

GPS receivers use signals from satellites to allow tractors to be driven in straight lines for mowing and sowing.

“[The robbers] knew what they were after. You wouldn’t know what was in my yard if you were just driving by,” Mohan says. “These guys know what tractors to look out for and they follow you and see where you go,” he adds.

As a consequence he has become even more cautious with his equipment. “I thought our yard was fairly secure, but that wasn’t the case,” he says.

Although the Gardaí came out promptly to the scene of the crime, they felt that they couldn’t do much with the evidence they found, Mohan says. “[Reporting it to the Gardaí] is important for insurance purposes, but I think that there aren’t enough Gardaí,” he adds.