Thieves in Eastern Washington stole about $90,000 worth of GPS units from farm equipment last month, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office says.
Farmers should take extra precautions to secure their equipment, a spokesman for the office warned. GPS units use satellite signals to determine exact locations, allowing farmers to work more efficiently and save money.
“We suspect the thieves are taking the equipment in order to exchange them for cash or drugs or whatever their motivation might be,” said Kyle Foreman, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
At least five thefts worth about $90,000 were reported in the last week, Foreman said.
When there’s an increase in thefts, it means thieves are exchanging information that GPS equipment is easy to access, remove and sell, Foreman said.
Thieves had been targeting metal, but those thefts have declined due to tougher legislation and improved crime prevention, and the amount of money thieves can receive for metal has gone down, Foreman said.
When that happens, thieves look for something else to target, he said.
Deputies continue to investigate.
Foreman recommends farmers lock their equipment and park it close to an occupied facility in a well-lit area.
If farmers find someone stealing equipment, they should call 9-1-1 immediately, get a description of the person and vehicle, the license plate number and the direction it’s heading.
“Don’t try to confront the person because they may be dangerous, may be under the influence of drugs,” Foreman said. “We don’t want anybody getting hurt.”
“(Sheriff Tom Jones) is bothered by this. ... There’s a couple deputies that either farm, ranch or participate in farming or ranching in this community, so it hits home to them, they take it personally,” he said. “We all want to catch whoever’s doing this.”
Thieves can get “pretty brazen,” Foreman said, stealing tractors in the middle of the night by driving them away or putting them on a semitrailer, or stealing the metal.
“That’s not easy to do, you don’t just walk up, take it and walk away with it,” he said. “Somebody’s going to see something. The more the equipment is closer to an occupied home or locked up in a building, the lesser the chance these guys are going to be able to do it.”