When a thief steals your farm equipment, they take part of your livelihood. Learning how to prevent farm theft can keep your business operating at its peak while reducing time and monetary losses.

Theft can happen to anyone, even if your farm is in a low-traffic area. In Halifax Township, Penn., a thief took a pair of Kubota RTVs from a farm equipment business. The event brought an investigation by state police and a news story. If you someone steals equipment from your farm, you can lose productivity, which means you’ll also lose some money. Nature does not wait until you have purchased a new tractor to replace a stolen one. Losing farm equipment could also affect your harvest by delaying necessary chores on your farm.

You can prevent tool and vehicle theft from your farm in several ways, but don’t forget to also insure your property against such an incident.

The Best Ways to Prevent Theft From Your Farm

Thieves are on the lookout for farms that seem like an easy target — so, do everything you can to make sure yours isn’t one of them. The best methods of preventing vehicle and tool theft from your farm require you to act on multiple fronts. Don’t tackle the job of protecting your farm on your own, either — get help from others and take steps to watch what you own.

Here are seven tips to help you prevent farm equipment theft.

1. Join a Watch Program

Share the responsibility of watching your property with your neighbors. In communities around the country, neighborhood watch programs decrease local crime. Apply the same idea to your farm by getting others to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

One myth of watch programs is that they turn members into an unofficial militia. This idea cannot be further from the truth. Those participating in farm watch programs are educators who serve as eyes to watch out for thefts and wanted individuals. If someone in the watch sees something, the witness calls the police. Watch members are never to take matters into their own hands, trusting the law enforcement professionals to that task.

What differentiates a farm watch from a neighborhood watch program is the education shared with local police. In Ventura County’s watch program, locals rode along with law enforcement officers, exchanging information about crime prevention and farm information. Some officers may have transferred from cities and could be unfamiliar with livestock and farm equipment. Volunteers in a farm watch program can educate these officers in what they need to know about how farms operate. The officers, in turn, can share ideas on preventing theft — which are often universal — regardless of rural or urban setting.

The California farm watch has expanded into an official group called ACTION, which stands for Agricultural Crime Technology Information and Operation Network. To show the effectiveness of this group, Florida State University conducted a study on the costs and benefits of ACTION. Counties participating in this program experienced a 20 percent lower theft rate compared to nonparticipants. Even without a collective like ACTION in your area, you can still partner with law enforcement and other nearby farmers to increase safety in your community.

2. Park Equipment Out of View

Equipment theft is a dire problem, especially when it comes to the heavy equipment used in agriculture. Each month in the United States, reports of thefts of 1000 pieces of heavy equipment are filed. Sadly, the recovery rate for stolen equipment is below 20 percent. Rather than hoping to get your farm vehicle back if it’s taken, prevent theft by hiding your valuables from view.

To protect both livestock and ride-on equipment, keep them out of sight. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” will also work with criminals. If a thief does not know you own something, he will be less likely to enter your property to steal it.

When not in use, park vehicles in a protected location that you cannot see from the main road. If you have a storage shed large enough for vehicles with a locking entrance, that would be the ideal place to keep your heavy equipment to prevent tractor theft. If you don’t have this, use fencing or buildings to park your equipment behind and keep it from prying eyes.

You will also need to protect your livestock by keeping them far from the main road. Farm animals can be as much of a resalable commodity as farm tools and vehicles. Protect your livestock by keeping them far from the road and branding them to identify them as yours.

3. Add Locks and Lights

If you have farm tools you cannot store in a shed, find some means of locking them down. Use chains and padlocks to secure tanks of fuel and small pieces of equipment. Keep secure locks on your livestock pens and heavy equipment storage areas.

Lights and security cameras also go a long way toward preventing theft. Install security cameras or infrared cameras to watch storage areas. Motion detecting lights will illuminate areas a thief walks across. When the light comes on, you will be alerted to an intruder, and the thief will be less likely to finish his intended job.

Just the presence of cameras can reduce the likelihood of theft. In a survey of burglars in the United Kingdom, the most significant deterrent to both car thefts and burglary was the presence of CCTV cameras. Additionally, having working cameras gives you evidence of theft you can show the police. The images captured could even help local law enforcement identify an arrest a suspect. Make sure you invest in security cameras that will give clear pictures of the amount of lighting available. Motion-activated lights could increase the brightness your cameras need, too.

4. Consider GPS Tracking

Locks, lights and cameras can deter would-be thieves from stealing your farm equipment, but if something does go missing, you will need a way to find out where it is.

While you can engrave all your tools with your identification like such as your driver’s license number, it’s just as simple for a criminal to scrape the information off. Even the original identification number on pieces of larger equipment is one of the first things thieves amend. If you have installed a GPS tracking system, however, you’ll be able to track the equipment to the location where the criminal left it.

With GPS tracking on your heavy equipment, you can assist police in getting your heavy equipment back. Some systems will use an app on your phone for the monitoring. Investing in the GPS tracking system may be a small price to pay for the lost productivity and cost of replacing the vehicle.

Due to the price of these systems, it’s best to install GPS trackers only on your larger pieces of equipment. Since you won’t be able to use trackers on all your farm equipment or livestock, consider this one small step in the overall process of making your farm more secure.

5. Use Fuel Caps That Lock

The fuel in your heavy equipment tanks is not necessarily safe, either — thieves can siphon the fuel from the tanks of your heavy equipment. This crime occurs more often when fuel prices rise, but it can happen at any time.

Another worrisome problem is that of ill-meaning pranksters. Local vandals can pour additives into your tank that can ruin the engine. A locking fuel cap prevents criminals from getting to the fuel inside the tank.

Another way fuel caps with locks can help is in the event your equipment gets stolen. Without a means of refilling the tank when it gets empty, the criminals won’t be able to drive your equipment very far, reducing the radius law enforcement will have to search to find your stolen property.

6. Improve Record Keeping

Locking your fuel caps will protect your tank from criminals, but what if someone still takes your equipment? You’ll need adequate records to assist law enforcement in the search.

Like everything else on your farm, you need to keep meticulous records of the tools and heavy equipment you own. Include more than just the types, too. In a file, have recent photographs of your equipment to give to police for identification in case you have something stolen. You will want to provide as much data as possible about your property from your records. The more information law enforcement officials have about your items, the more likely they will be able to find it.

Another critical aspect of record keeping is registering your heavy equipment. One way to do this task is through the National Equipment Register, NER. This company offers several methods of tracking your heavy equipment in the event it gets stolen. If you don’t want a registered GPS monitoring system with the company, you can opt to register the identification numbers on your equipment. These numbers will go into the database that law enforcement personnel use when searching for stolen goods.

After you do this, check with your insurance company — some insurers offer discounts or incentives for registering your farm vehicles.

Another way you can protect farm equipment is by referencing IRONcheck for reports of previous theft of any used farm vehicles you purchase. Doing so can prevent you from buying stolen equipment or purchasing equipment that has been damaged with insurance claims filed.

7. Don’t Leave Keys With Vehicles

You wouldn’t store your keys in the car while parked in public, so why would you keep your heavy equipment keys in the vehicle? Though an essential step is to keep the keys away from a vehicle, many people feel their farms are safe from intrusion. That feeling of safety means more people than you’d expect leave their keys in the vehicle or close by.

Don’t make the criminals’ jobs easier by keeping the keys near or in a vehicle. Instead, store them far away from the farm equipment. You may even need to keep the keys with you, as you would with your car keys. But sometimes, even keeping the keys separated isn’t enough.

Some thieves will not even need your equipment’s keys because most heavy equipment comes with universal keys. If someone has another tractor of the same brand, their key could also work in your tractor. To combat this, install secondary theft deterrents — two options are fuel cut-off systems or a system that prevents the vehicle from starting with universal keys.

Additionally, GPS tracking alerts you if the vehicle leaves your property. Depending on your insurer, you may have to show you’ve installed one of these measures on your heavy equipment before you can get coverage. As always, check with your insurer first for inquiries about your specific insurance product.

What to Do If Your Equipment Is Stolen

Unfortunately, theft can happen even if you do everything you can to prevent them. If someone does steal your equipment, the first step is not to panic. Then, take the following steps to increase your odds of getting the equipment returned or at least receiving a means of recovering from the incident:

  • Check Registration: Having your equipment registered makes it easier to find if someone tries to resell it.
  • Contact Law Enforcement: Call your local law enforcement officials to report the theft. Surprisingly, 60 percent of property crimes went unreported between 2006 and 2010. Alerting local law enforcement to the incident will help them identify patterns in local crime that could lead them to the perpetrator.
  • Gather Evidence: If you have video footage of the event or pictures of your stolen property, have those ready to give to the law enforcement officials when they arrive. The more evidence you can provide of your ownership and the theft will help move the investigation forward.
  • Contact Your Insurance Company: Report the theft to the insurance company. If you are not sure of what you need to do, ask your agent or read through your most up-to-date policy. For example, you may need to have evidence of reporting the incident to the police, which is another reason to inform law enforcement of the crime. Check your policy for specific details.

While law enforcement cannot guarantee you will get your missing vehicles or tools back, if you have farm insurance, you will be able to weather the situation financially. Having insurance will help you get back on your feet with the shortest delay possible after having your gear stolen. It only makes sense to have a policy in place for when theft happens. Even if you never use it, the peace of mind it brings will help you sleep at night.

Protect Your Farm Equipment With Reisinger Insurance Agency Inc.

Sometimes, regardless of your efforts, you won’t be able to prevent your equipment from getting stolen, but your local insurance agent can help you recover your livelihood. Insuring your farm equipment is a safeguard all equipment owners should take. You wouldn’t own a car or house without insurance, so why would you have essential farm equipment uninsured?

Contact Reisinger for questions or a quote to get coverage for your farm and equipment. Always verify with your insurance agent to see the coverage available to you in your area. Remember to also check your policy regularly for any changes and updates.