by Henry James (May 2021)

A SPECIAL rural task force has been set up by Lancashire Police to deal with the rising problem of rural crime which has had an impact on farmers in West Lancashire.

Thieves in West Lancashire are targeting farms in the area and stealing Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance systems on a regular basis, which are costing farmers thousands of pounds.

Not only is the technology expensive to replace, but the units also store vital farm data and are essential for modern day tractors and combines to work effectively.

When thieves targeted the Molyneux Kale Company on Asmall Lane in Scarisbrick on Monday, May 10, they also took the engine management system, meaning the tractor can no longer be driven.

As the tractor is an essential tool for the farm, Chris Molyneux, who owns the company, has been forced to rent another at a cost of £1,000 a week until his own is fixed.

Welcoming Lancashire Constabulary’s formation of special rural task force teams at Morecambe, Garstang, Ormskirk, Clitheroe and Waterfoot, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) says tackling GPS theft needs to be one of the new 20 officers’ priorities.

NFU Lancashire County Chair Lisa Edwards who farms at Gore House Farm in Lydiate, has also been a victim of this crime. At a meeting on her farm on Monday, May 24, she met the new rural officers stationed at Ormskirk to raise this issue as a matter of importance.

In August 2020, Lisa had her GPS system stolen off the top of a combine that was locked away in a shed.

They took the dome from the top as well as the screen.

She’s now advising fellow farmers in the county to tag and mark all of their equipment, make themselves known to the new rural task force and lock everything away at night – although sadly this does not always deter the thieves.

Lisa’s combine was locked away in a shed, but they still managed to break in.

Lisa said: “We didn’t dare take the dome off the top of the combine late at night in the dark due to health and safety concerns.

“It’s very high and you’d need a ladder. That did not stop the thieves though. Our combine was out of action for two days and cost £8,500 to replace.

“I’d urge all farmers to lock everything away and in the first instance ask the new rural task force for one of their extremely helpful advice sheets.

“We also move equipment around the farm so the thieves can’t accurately predict where it will be.”

Chief Inspector Chris Hardy is leading the special rural task force team and told the Champion: “We have made significant investment to create the bespoke teams who

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will work in dedicated shift patterns. The teams will engage with the community to find out what the issues are and then will deal with them.”

PC Sean Dalby added: “Being part of this dedicated team means I’ll no longer be pulled away from rural issues to deal with domestics and shop lifting.

“All of my time can now be spent exclusively tackling rural crime.

“We have real issues with scrambler bikes and fly tipping. As a lover of the countryside who is never happier than when I’m with my dogs in the middle of nowhere, these are crimes which really get under my skin.

“I’ll do all I can to stop them.”

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