Owners of ATVs and quad bikes are being asked to increase security following a significant rise in thefts during the coronavirus lockdown.
Police say rural thieves are using the quiet period to prey on vulnerable farmers and steal their kit.
In Hampshire alone, 21 ATVs were stolen over a 24-day period since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
In one typical incident, thieves carried out an overnight raid on the Conholt Park Estate, near Andover, sometime between 12.50am and 1.30am on Monday 13 April.
They stole a green 750cc Suzuki King Quad bike and a red 500cc Suzuki King Quad bike.
Superintendent Andy Huddleston, from Northumbria Police, is also the national police lead for agricultural machinery and vehicle thefts.
He said: “Since going into lockdown due to Covid-19, overall vehicle crime is down by 40%, however, machinery thefts are on the rise, not everywhere, but significantly in several parts of the country, such as Hampshire, where 21 ATVs were stolen in 24 days.
“Within the past week, some great work by the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service and Surrey Police resulted in arrests and the seizure of a wagon loaded with a cross-section of agricultural equipment.
“However, the fact remains, like many crimes, we will not arrest our way out of these problems and the wider rural society all have a part to play.”
Tips to prevent the theft of agricultural vehicles
- Mark with Cesar marking device
- Fit a tracking device and mobiliser
- Use preparatory devices, such as Quad Vice, to protect quads
- Remove keys when not in use and store out of sight
- Keep GPS-equipped tractors in secure buildings, or remove kits when not in use
Supt Huddleston said the farming industry needs to ask more of manufacturers, and he believes that all ATVs should be fitted with an electronic immobiliser as a minimum standard.
But he added: “I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that, overnight, keys are taken out of machines that are worth in excess of £6,000, or in the case of telehandlers and tractors upwards of £40,000.”
Agricultural vehicle theft claims cost rural insurer NFU Mutual £7.4m in 2019, up 26% year on year. ATV claims cost moe than £2.6m, up 10%.