PROPERTY worth thousands of pounds has been stolen in raids on two farms in Northumberland – as travelling criminals continue to target valuable quad bikes to sell on the black market.
Six quad bikes were stolen in the latest incidents at farms in the Alnwick area last week, four months after it was revealed the machines have become a prime target in rural crime.
Quads are said to be a magnet for criminals because they can be quite easy to sell on and relatively simple to steal.
Farmers have been urged to be ever-more vigilant against criminals who roam rural areas of the North East in search of easy pickings at remote locations.
One farmer in Northumberland revealed there have been recent reports of a white Transit van being driven off when spotted parked near farms in the Whittingham area.
Last Thursday night, raiders broke into a farm building near North Charlton, north of Alnwick, and got away with four Honda 420 quad bikes, a child’s quad and a black Land Rover Defender.
The same night, thieves struck at a farm at nearby High Heckley and stole a red Honda quad and an assortment of power tools and equipment, including three chainsaws, a hedge trimmer, a strimmer and socket and tool sets.
The thefts come four months after the farmers’ union insurance arm revealed that quads worth thousands of pounds each are being stolen at the rate of almost one a week from farms and rural businesses in the region.
NFU Mutual said quads had leaped to second on the rural crime list, behind Land Rovers and 4x4s. In the 12 months ending in February, 50 quads were stolen in the North East.
Northumbria Police’s Alnwick neighbourhood inspector Sue Peart said it was possible last Thursday night’s two raids were linked and appealed for help from the public to catch the thieves.
She said: “We think they have used a large lorry or van that they have parked nearby and then wheeled the quads across fields and into their vehicle. Those responsible may have been in the area in the days before the two crimes, and I’d appeal for everyone to keep an eye out for any suspicious vehicles or people where they live.”
Police officers are visiting farms in the area and offering crime prevention advice.
Last night Stoker Frater, who farms near Alnwick and is a national NFU council delegate, said there had been a spate of quad bike thefts in recent weeks.
He said: “There is no doubt there is a better black market for these things during this recession and farmers do need to be ever more vigilant, especially if they are near the main roads because this is often opportunist crime.
“Farmers should keep quad bikes locked away, but we do get complacent at times and leave them standing about.
“A lot of beef farmers use quads to get the cows in and out.
“I saw a white Transit van in the Whittingham area last week, which drove off as I was watching it, and other farmers have reported seeing a similar van.”
Anyone with information about the latest raids is asked to contact police on 0345 604 3043 ext 69191, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.