The NFU is warning farmers to be extra vigilant after a worrying spate of quad bike thefts on farms across rural Northumberland.
With dozens of attempted and successful thefts reported over the last few weeks, the NFU is working closely with Northumbria Police to spread the word throughout the local farming community to be on their guard.
"We need people to be especially vigilant at the moment as it is clear that thieves are targeting farm equipment – especially quad bikes," said NFU Northumberland County Adviser Samantha Davies.
"Quad bikes are essential for the last majority of Northumberland farmers, especially livestock farmers, and represent a significant financial investment for them. We really do need to make it as difficult as possible for anyone looking to steal them.
"With this in mind we are working to deliver crime prevention advice provided by Northumbria Police. First and foremost we are urging all farmers to make sure no vehicles are left unattended with the keys still in the ignition. Turning your back even for a moment can give opportunist thieves the chance to strike.
"We are also reminding people to take care they are not inadvertently buying stolen property after police recently stopped someone who had bought a quad bike in good faith only to discover it had been stolen."
Northumbria police have provided detailed guidance for farmers to help them buy with confidence. Tips range from never meeting sellers in random places such as car parks or lay-bys and taking steps to check the previous owner or service history to physically checking over the vehicle to satisfy yourself that for example the serial number plate has not been tampered with.
"Above all it's crucial that the rural community, the police, the NFU and rural insurers NFU Mutual work together to tackle this worrying crime wave," added Samantha.
"Our message to our members is to please be sure to report anything suspicious using the Police 101 number and certainly report any thefts straight away. I know the Police are working hard on this and will welcome any intelligence the farming and wider rural community can provide.”
Also commenting, NFU Morpeth-based Group Secretary and NFU Mutual Agent Stephen Rank said:
"We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of rural thefts with property stolen likely to be quad bikes, RTVs, diesel, portable tools, lawnmowers and strimmers. It is our advice to be extremely vigilant and take down the details of any unknown vehicles seen on your property. Also where practical improve your security or simply put high risk items out of sight.
"The cost of these losses is not restricted to the items involved but the inconvenience caused and the additional cost of working. It is important to make sure you are correctly and adequately insured."