A new specialized police unit has been created to disrupt organized gangs that steal farm and construction machinery, both in the UK and overseas.
The Agricultural and Construction Equipment Unit (ACE) will be managed and operated within Opal, which is the national intelligence unit focused on staged theft across the UK.
Part of ACE’s job will be targeting organized crime groups who are stealing farm machinery in the UK and shipping them overseas for sale, and the unit will work quickly to try to recover the stolen machinery.
The new task force will be able to draw on Opal’s significant resources, including intelligence analysts and police.
Detective Inspector Ernie Locke of Opal said, “Our role has many facets, including problem-solving skills; implement the “four Ps strategy” of preparing, preventing, protecting and prosecuting; identify emerging threats; and intelligence at regional, national and international levels.
Farm vehicle theft cost UK farmers £ 9.3million in 2019, according to the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report, published last year. The updated figures for 2020 will be released by the rural insurer on August 3.
Superintendent Andy Huddleston, who is the National Council of Chiefs of Police responsible for farm machinery theft, welcomed the new unit.
“The launch of the ACE team will make a massive contribution to the fight against farm machinery theft – intelligence sharing and targeting of organized crime groups in this specialized area of theft is essential,” he said.
The unit was funded by the Association of Agricultural Engineers (AEA) and the Construction Equipment Association, as well as by insurance companies, including NFU Mutual.
Stephen Howarth, AEA Agricultural Economist, said: “In addition to the financial cost, agricultural vehicle theft can be extremely disruptive to agricultural businesses, which often have to operate within a limited time frame, often in the short term. .
“We welcome the new ACE team and look forward to working with them to reduce this important element of rural crime. “