As rural criminals get more savvy in how they target farms, farmers are being urged to respond tactically via digital technology and social media.
The latest flurry of rural thefts has been so extensive that farmers are being urged to make better use of digital technology and social media to catch brazen thieves.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual said incidents had spiked since the nights drew in and it reiterated how criminals were taking advantage of darker nights, most notably to steal tractors, quad bikes and other farm equipment.
The current hotspot for machinery theft is the East Midlands, including Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, with some farmers losing two machines in one night.
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price said criminals knew how to play the game.
He said: “Dark nights provide cover for thieves to get into farmyards and buildings and have a good search around without being seen.
“Criminals also know that fewer farmers’ family members and workers are likely to be out and about around the farm in winter.”
Quad bike thefts have peaked in northern England, most notably in Cumbria, but also throughout Lancashire, Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham.
In Wales, police forces in Gwent, Dyfed Powys and South Wales are dealing with a similar surge.
But getting to grips with digital technology and a social media network has helped farmers recover their stolen items, especially through local contacts.
The platforms helped one Staffordshire farmer recover his £30,000 pair of disc mowers, which were stolen from his farm near Leek in early October.
Mr Price said: “The mowers were spotted being transported across the border to Derbyshire. Farmers in Derbyshire then circulated the crime incident on a new Farm Watch WhatsApp group.”
A local farmer spotted the front mower abandoned on a remote lane near Youlgreave, Derbyshire.
“The phone app ‘what3words’, which provides details of a location with a resolution of three metres, was then used to pinpoint its exact location,” he added.