Lock up your tractors, gardaí warn, as one in four is stolen with key in it

Crime gangs targeting farms are bypassing sophisticated tracking systems

Crowds at  the opening day of the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg.

Crowds at the opening day of the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg.

 

Organised crime gangs are targeting farm equipment and have figured out ways to bypass sophisticated tracking systems, the Garda has warned.

About €1.4 million worth of goods were stolen from Irish farms over the past 12 months in 1,100 reported incidents. This included 100 incidents of thefts of farm animals worth about €350,000. About half of this was made up of stolen cattle.

The number of incidents involving the theft of cattle and horses increased this year while the number of incidents involving sheep, poultry, dogs and pigs decreased.

Gardaí at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co Offaly warned that three out of four vans and one out of four tractors are stolen with the key in them. Crime prevention officer for Laois and Offaly, Sgt Graham Kavanagh said organised crime gangs are targeting high- value equipment including tractors worth more than €150,000.

He said many new tractors are fitted with GPS tracking systems but that some gangs have figured out how to short- circuit these using a car battery. Local criminals are usually responsible for thefts of tools and even silage wrap, he said. “Everything on a farm is of value to someone.”

Sgt Kavanagh advised farmers to remove the keys from their vehicles, lock their gates and hide away expensive equipment such as quad bikes and trailers. They should also ensure farms are well lit to deter thieves.

Farm thefts have fallen by eight per cent in the past 12 months, Sgt Kavanagh said. But he cautioned against complacency.

“The figure could be down because people aren’t reporting it as much. We’re trying to encourage farmers to report every theft and every crime that happens on the farm.”

The average value of stolen property was €300 per incident, a figure which has increased from €250 since 2017.