Don't gift your machinery to brazen burglars this Christmas
Tis the season to be cautious as the festive time of year presents a golden opportunity for thieves to target farms. But there are steps you can take to safeguard your property
The amount of farm machinery and equipment being stolen from farms around the country each week is shocking. Christmas time represents a golden opportunity for further crime as yards are left vacant for long periods. The cloak of dark evenings also make would-be thieves' lives easier.
Farm machinery and equipment theft seems to be getting more brazen in nature. A report on RTÉ recently detailed how four people were arrested for a vintage car scam in which vulnerable and elderly owners were being targeted and conned out of the true value of their property.
And last month there was the unbelievable case where a Midlands farmer had his pick-up truck and trailer containing 60 sheep and his sheepdog stolen. All of this happened in an instant after he had stopped at a filling station and went inside to pay for diesel. By the time he came back out, everything was stolen.
But it isn't just cars and jeeps that are being taken from farmyards; everything from tractors, trailers, quad bikes, lawnmowers, generators, welders and chainsaws are regularly being reported as stolen from farms.
The latter items are a particular risk because they are smaller and easier to transport, while still being very valuable and resalable; a good chainsaw these days can cost €700 or €800.
As recent media coverage highlighted, these gangs are getting more brazen and predatory and they target the vulnerable every single time.
Could you do more to protect your farm and equipment in the future? The advice from the Gardaí is that the following screening questions can show whether there is a risk of burglary on your farm:
1. Are your tools, quads, trailers and other expensive equipment stored in a safe place?
2. Have you ever found anyone in your yard without a valid reason for being there?
3. Has anyone just turned up unexpectedly to try to buy or sell you something?
4. Have you seen suspicious vehicles on your property or in the neighbourhood?
What can be done?
I think most of us would answer yes to at least a couple of the above, which leads to the next obvious question - what can be done to cut down on rural crime? In terms of making your farm a safer, more secure place, in the first instance Gardaí recommend restricting access to your yard by installing gates and fixing them to a sturdy concrete or metal post.
Don't hide spare keys in obvious places outside or leave ladders or other climbing aids lying around outside that thieves could potentially use to gain access.
Yard boundaries are important also; fencing, hedges and walls should be robust, well maintained and checked regularly for breaches. Some farmers in particularly vulnerable areas have considered installing alarms and/or CCTV which can provide surveillance on places out of view of the farmhouse.
A relatively cheap but effective deterrent for burglars is lighting. At this time of year illuminating darkened areas which are overlooked from the dwelling or covered by CCTV increases the risk of a burglar getting caught.
Another cheap and effective way of deterring potential burglars is having a good guard dog who will act as a physical deterrent and make plenty of noise if a stranger enters the yard.
A common mistake by farmers with a lot of machinery or farm tools is to keep them stored in an outbuilding away from the main holding. Gardaí say it is much safer to keep such equipment in a building with enhanced security features close to the farmhouse.
Marking your equipment (for example a chain saw) is a great idea for two reasons; firstly it is a deterrent to the saw being stolen (as it will be harder to sell on), and secondly, if the equipment is stolen but later recovered by Gardaí you will be able to prove that it is in fact yours.
Your name or personal mark with permanent marker or even heavy etching with an angle grinder are both very durable markings. Etching or engraving can be done underneath machinery or in areas which will become mud splattered, and so remain hidden.
A soldering iron is effective for permanent marking on plastic areas.
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