Two jailed over thefts of farm GPS equipment – including in West Dorset

TWO men have been jailed after a series of high-value farm GPS thefts.

Tomas Staukauskas, 32, of Beverley Road, Hull, and Mantas Palionis, 31, of Abbey Street, Hull, were jailed for four years and three years in prison respectively at Hull Crown Court on Tuesday, November 21.

Both pleaded guilty at an earlier court appearance to handling stolen goods and going equipped for theft.

The convictions came after an investigation led by Humberside Police, and assisted by the Dorset Rural Crime Team, after two devices were found to have been stolen from West Dorset.

The pair were arrested after police identified a car which had been linked to multiple high-value thefts.

Following an on-foot chase the males were arrested and a search of the car conducted.

Inside the car, a substantial amount of farming GPS devices were found. They were wrapped in tin foil to prevent the signal of the devices being detected. Following further searches additional GPS systems were found.

Officer in the case Andrew Green, from Humberside Criminal Investigation Department, said: “Palionis and Staukauskas are calculated criminals, who carefully planned ways to try and evade arrest and conceal their offending”.

PC Sebastian Haggett, from Dorset Rural Crime Team, said: “We will continue to work with other forces to target rural offenders and bring them to justice.”

Earlier this year, insurer NFU Mutual warned of a rising number of GPS thefts from farms.

The firm said the cost of thefts in the first quarter of 2023 doubled when compared to the same period last year, exceeding £500,000.

Thefts of farm GPS equipment have been rising, according to NFU Mutual

Thefts of farm GPS equipment have been rising, according to NFU Mutual

Bob Henderson, who leads NFU Mutual’s Agricultural Engineering Field Team, said: “The scale of GPS theft we’re currently seeing makes it vital that farmers take all possible steps to protect their GPS equipment by removing it from tractors, combines and other machines and locking it up securely when not in use.

“The busy harvesting season is rapidly approaching. We are very concerned that the gangs committing these thefts will be upping their game.

“Supply chain problems cause long waits for replacement GPS equipment, which leads to serious disruption to farmers and prevents them gathering their crops in prime condition.

“Disrupting worldwide criminal distribution lines for gangs to sell-on stolen GPS equipment is the key to controlling this crime wave, so we’re working closely with police, machinery manufacturers and farmers to make it more difficult for these gangs to operate.”

Superintendent Andrew Huddleston, who leads the National Rural Crime Unit, urged farmers to take precautions against would-be thieves, who are operating in organised gangs.

“These criminal gangs are putting a lot of effort into identifying farm equipment fitted with GPS, watching those farms and even using drones to spot opportunities to return at night,” he said.

“They go to great lengths to get hold of kit, breaking through locked gates and buildings security systems to take GPS from machinery.

“Removing GPS units from your machinery at night and locking it in a well-secured cabinet is the best way to stop these criminals.

“While it’s inconvenient to spend several minutes removing equipment after a hard day’s work, that’s preferable to losing it to the gangs, with long delays of weeks, or even months, to get hold of replacement units.

“When it’s not practical to remove units from machines because of ongoing work away from the farmstead, try and park up machinery where it can’t be seen easily.

“Either forensically marking, painting or scratching your farm name or post code onto your GPS makes them less attractive to thieves and harder to sell-on.

“And if you see any suspicious vehicles moving around at any time of the day, then please share this information on rural watch groups and the police to help build the picture.

“Most of the stolen units are going abroad, but some are offered for sale online here. If something is offered cheap, there’s a reason – don’t fuel illegal activity by buying from these adverts.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.