There have been almost as many GPS guidance systems stolen in Ireland in the first six weeks of 2024 than there has been in the 12 months of 2023, the Irish Farmers Journal can reveal.

According to Detective Garda Eugene O’Sullivan from the Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation Unit, 25 incidents of GPS theft have been recorded this year to date.

Thefts have been confirmed in Cork, Wexford, Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Limerick, Meath and Dublin. As reported by the Irish Farmers Journal last week, it appears to be mainly John Deere, New Holland, Case IH and Valtra tractors that are being targeted.

“We are working with our colleagues attached to NAVCIS [Vehicle Crime Intelligence Police Service, UK] and the rural crime units in the UK and Europe and sharing intelligence. The theft of these units came to garda/police attention in 2019 when three dealerships had approximately 30 units stolen overnight,” explained Detective O’Sullivan.

“There was a lull in 2020 and 2021 (five in 20 and six in 21 approximately) but thefts picked up again in 2022.”

“Almost 12 months later (2019), two of these units turned up in Crookston, Minnesota in the US having been advertised on eBay. They were successfully recovered by Polk County Sheriff’s Office which liaised with detectives from the stolen vehicle unit here and subsequently returned to the dealerships here,” he continued.

“The units had been purchased by a company in Minnesota who specialised in the trade and sale of used GPS guidance systems. They, in turn, had purchased them through the internet from Lithuania.

“The units were identified from their unique serial numbers. It’s fundamental that farmers and contractors record these unique serial numbers and mark their property with their own markings and record them,” he said.

“Other units stolen from Ireland have turned up in Lithuania, Canada, the US and Georgia. The trend is that thieves have moved away from the thefts of tractors and are now more interested in technology such as GPS systems,” the detective explained, acknowledging that the problem has been escalating and has now become an epidemic.

In the UK, the PSNI has a specific rural crime intelligence unit set up to tackle such crimes.

Is it time that a similar task force unit was commissioned in Ireland?

"The trend is that thieves have moved away from the thefts of tractors and are now more interested in technology such as GPS systems.”