Police have praised quick-thinking rural communities in the Yorkshire Dales after two suspected stolen quad bikes were recovered within hours of being taken.
Residents in Burnsall used a WhatsApp group to share information that led to the arrest of two people, and members of the public near Addingham detained a man for the police after he had crashed a stolen quad bike into a hedge.
In the space of two days, three people were arrested in connection with stealing quad bikes, in two separate incidents.
North Yorkshire police said it would continue to target quad bike thieves – whose actions are particularly damaging at this time of year, with many farmers relying on their bikes for lambing.
At 8.30pm on Thursday 26 March, witnesses called police with a report that a quad bike and a car had been driven fast through Burnsall, heading towards Bolton Abbey, near Skipton.
The bike, a red Honda, was followed by a silver Ford Fiesta. Residents shared their suspicions in a WhatsApp group and contacted North Yorkshire Police.
A short time later, police officers on the A65 stopped a Ford Fiesta and asked the two occupants about their journey, considering the government instruction to avoid non-essential travel.
Given the circumstances, the two people in the Fiesta, a 21-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, were both arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary.
The man was also arrested on suspicion of drug driving, and possession of cannabis. They have been released under investigation while enquiries continue.
The following day, at about 3pm on Friday 27 March, a witness reported that he had seen a suspected stolen quad bike being ridden through Burnsall.
The quad bike then crashed into a hedge near Addingham, and the rider was detained by quick-thinking members of the public until police officers arrived.
A man was charged with theft of a motor vehicle, driving without a licence, and driving without insurance, and has already appeared in court.
Police are appealing for information after another quad bike was stolen, on Sunday 29 March. Between 9.30pm and midnight a red Suzuki King was stolen from Langthorne, near Bedale.
Anyone with information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting reference number 12200051898.
Inspector Matt Hagen, of North Yorkshire Police’s rural taskforce, said: “Police officers work really closely with our rural communities, and people are used to keeping an eye out for one another.
“That community spirit, and great relationship between the police and the public, has led to three arrests and two bikes recovered.”
Rise in farm vehicle theft
The lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has led to concerns that criminals are turning to the countryside as their other revenue streams dry up, says NFU rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson.
“Criminality is being displaced to rural areas and we are seeing quads stolen in high numbers across the North West counties, large tractors and telehandlers from Norfolk and Lincolnshire, and horse boxes and trailers from Hampshire.
“Newer gators appear to be topping the thieves’ wish list, which is raising concerns that they are being taken to enable other crime on rural terrain.
“Bigger units and agricultural construction equipment are also being taken by thieves with curtain-sided lorries, who are cashing in on deserted sites,” sje says.
NFU Mutual tips to secure your machine
• Remove keys. Just as you wouldn’t leave the keys in your front door at home. Store keys securely
• Keep your machine locked up and out of sight. Thieves often stake out a farm before they raid, so where possible store machinery in a locked building or where it can’t be seen from the road
• Use the Cesar marking and registration system. Markings make your property less attractive to criminals and can help recover your belongings if they are stolen
• Install immobilisers and trackers on tractors and loaders. Thieves can’t take what they can’t start and won’t want to be found if they make off with your property
• Know what you own. Take pictures of your vehicle and record serial numbers