Innovative technology launched to combat sheep thefts

NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE

18 Oct 2021

An initiative to prevent sheep theft, and assist in prosecutions against those committing the thefts, has been launched in rural North Lincolnshire. Led by Heritage and Rural Crime officers PC Lawrence Grant and PC Jane Proud, the programme has been designed to prevent local farmers from becoming victims of crime.

With the shift from winter to spring each year comes the start of what is known as ‘lambing season’, an extremely busy period on the farming calendar, where opportunistic thieves set their sights on stealing sheep mothers or young lambs for their own gain.

This culminated in the discovery of what was believed to be an illegal slaughterhouse inside a residential property in Scunthorpe in April 2020. Investigators were unable to prosecute any of the four suspects who were arrested as it could not be identified if or from where the sheep had been stolen.

The local patrol and neighbourhood teams, plus PC Proud, increased preventative patrols and visibility in the more rural areas of North Lincolnshire. However, they have been looking for more innovative solutions which could further assist in preventing these thefts.

PC Lawrence Grant said: “We have secured funding through the Community Safety Partnership to roll out two new technologies across farms in North Lincolnshire which will be big steps forward in methods used to tackle rural crime.

TecTRACER livestock tracing system is a ground-breaking anti-theft device used by sheep farmers to protect their flocks against rustlers. It was the winner of the Sheep Innovator of the Year category at the British Farming Awards 2020.

“We have worked closely with TecTRACER, the company that provides the forensic sheep markings products, who have accompanied officers during the installation visits to ensure the farmers have access to the best advice on how to use to protect their sheep,” added PC Grant.

"Whilst it may not prevent thefts completely, it massively increases the chances of recovering the sheep. Plus, it helps build strong cases against offenders, with evidence that would prove difficult for these criminals to refute at court.”

The second initiative is a tracking harness which sits on the sheep’s back.

PC Jane Proud said: “Whilst these harnesses could be removed, you would have to catch the sheep first!”

Should the initiatives prove successful, there is an option to roll them out in other areas, such as the East Riding.

John Minary, Managing Director of TecTRACER, provided more information about the product and how it works: “The system utilises a unique forensic marking system that ingrains thousands of coded and electronic markers into a sheep’s fleece, allowing them to be easily identified using simple microscopes and scanners.

“The forensically coded microdots and transponders are virtually impossible to remove should the sheep be stolen, and these provide irrefutable evidence of ownership of the animals.

“TecTRACER creates an extremely strong-lasting deterrent against theft and raises the risk of arrest.”

About the second initiative, PC Jane Proud added: “The harnesses are designed to be used on the feistiest of the flock, who prove extremely hard to catch - even for trained shepherds with sheep dogs.

“The device is connected up to the farmer’s smartphone so that, as soon as it detects abnormal behaviour such as the sheep running around, an alert is broadcast to the farmer to allow them to go and investigate. Alerts can also be set up should the sheep venture out of a specific geographical area set by the farmer.

“This remote monitoring allows farmers to have peace of mind that, when they are in bed or not at the farm, they know exactly what is going on and can react quickly to any threats - and call us.

“We share our community’s anger when it comes to those who think it’s acceptable to steal from hard-working people or harm our wildlife, which is why tackling rural crime, and finding new ways to do that, is a Force priority.

“We will continue working closely with our farming and rural communities and hope that these new technologies will give us the tools to present strong cases to the CPS and courts.”

Whilst this technology is beginning to be rolled out to many farmers in the area already, anyone who has not yet heard about it and wishes to register their interest can do so by emailing here

If you see something suspicious that may be linked to the theft of sheep or any other rural crime please call the police on our 101 number, or use 999 in an emergency if a crime is in progress.
 

 

Here are some quotes from local farmers who have already had the installations completed.

“We were the first to trial TecTRACER in Humberside after having around forty sheep stolen over a two-year period. I genuinely considered selling the rest of my stock and giving up. We are so grateful to our local officers who have gone above and beyond to support us. Since we started using TecTRACER in January 2021 we have not been targeted again. In the same period last year we were targeted twice. I believe this demonstrates the deterrent this new technology provides.” - Jonathan Warren, Barton

“Our Lincoln Longwool sheep were targeted three times in a two year period. They are considered a vulnerable rare breed. There are now around only 700 breeding ewes left and we have had 8 stolen over the past couple of years. We are very happy to see the police working with farmers and using new technology to help protect sheep in the area.” - Jamie Quinn, Messingham

“It’s sickening for any stockman to see their livestock stolen and slaughtered inhumanely in the fields where they graze, any technology that helps the police track and bring these people to justice needs to be encouraged and embraced by the livestock industry.” - Warwick May, Wrawby 

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