ORGANISED gangs are raiding Hampshire farms and making off with expensive hi-tech items - including GPS devices that can cost as much as £15,000.

The state-of-the-art kits, which collect the data farmers need to boost their productivity, are being shipped abroad by criminal networks and sold in Europe.

Last year rural crime cost Hampshire farms an estimated £1.2m - making it one of the hardest hit parts of the country.

The theft of GPS equipment was one of the issues raised when police officers including the Chief Constable, Olivia Pinkney, met members of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Hampshire NFU adviser James FitzGerald warned that GPS thefts were becoming a regular occurrence.

“During the meeting the host farmer, Mark Dunford, made it very clear that the thefts are highly disruptive to farming operations, given the delays in replacing stolen kit,” he said.

“We also helped police to better understand the frustration farmers feel at fly-tipping and illegal access.”

CLA regional director Tim Bamford described it as a positive meeting that highlighted the impact crime was having on rural businesses and communities across Hampshire.

“It was good to hear the Chief Constable’s commitment to staff resourcing and her speedy work recruiting new members to the team.

“The CLA is committed to working with our partners to help tackle rural crime.

“We urge farmers, businesses and the wider public to report all incidents so police can build up a more complete picture and allocate appropriate resources.”

Ms Pinkney said the meeting provided officers with an opportunity to update partners on the training of new recruits and “reassure them of our ongoing commitment”.

She added: “We take rural crime very seriously, as the impacts on the livelihoods of those affected can be devastating.”

GPS devices, which help farmers map their acreage and make the most efficient use of their land, are being stolen from tractors.

The rural insurance company, NFU Mutual, is urging farmers to be extra vigilant as well as keeping machinery locked away when not in use.