Gone are the days when farmers left their front doors unlocked and their barns unsecured. Today, farmers face a growing threat from thieves out to steal everything from tractors to crops to livestock.

While agricultural theft is nothing new, it is on the rise and farmers are doing all they can to protect themselves and their property from these criminals. Law enforcement is helping, too. Sheriff departments across the country have added rural crime units.

Of course the best offense is a good defense. Farmers are using a combination of tried-and-true crime fighting methods and modern technology to stop petty thieves as well as large-scale criminal operations looking to get away with thousands of dollars in farm equipment and much more. What follows is a list of the most effective ways to keep thieves at bay:

  • Post signs. Many a hiker has crossed farmland unaware that he or she is trespassing. In such cases, posting signs that read “private property” or “no trespassing” should do the trick.
  • Put up fences and other barriers. Signs aren’t always visible so you may want to put up fences, including barbed wire fences. You also should consider planting large trees or hedges to deter unwanted visitors. These natural barriers also help to obscure your land and property. Gate hinges are easily removed so should be fortified. Secure gates with chains and locks. Secure access roads with gates or cables stretched between posts cemented in the ground.
  • Lock it up. Weld metal covers over hasps to protect padlocks from being cut. Lock storage areas with padlocks, hasps and deadbolts.
  • Light it up. Make sure your farm is well lit at night and that it is lit in the right places, including near fuel tanks, grain bins, barns and outbuildings. Lights should be kept on automatic timers. Install motion sensor lighting around the perimeter of shops and other buildings.
  • Get a dog. A dog’s bark is a strong deterrent to would-be criminals.
  • Install video surveillances systems. Cameras, monitors and recorders should be integrated with devices like motion detectors that trigger alarms and activate video recorders. Sometimes just seeing a camera will be enough to scare away a thief.
  • Make your mark. The owner applied number (OAN) program was established by the FBI to return stolen property using a unique 10-digit number, identifying the state, county and owner. This number can be permanently stamped on tractors, tools and everything in between. As a result of this program, stolen equipment has been recovered from across the U.S. You also can fit equipment and other vehicles with security tags that relay a GPS signal to help locate the property (and the thieves who took it)! You should permanently tag your livestock and post signs to advertise this fact, as well.
  • Boost awareness. On large farms, make sure employees are always on the lookout for suspicious activity or unfamiliar faces. Also make sure any vandalism or property damage is reported immediately.

While agricultural theft shows no signs of slowing down, today’s farmers are fighting back. And the methods they are using are proving to be very effective!