LAMBING season has arrived, and with it, a worrying rise in the number of quad bike thefts.

The bikes are a vital tool for farmers at this time of year, particularly those with a large area to cover, but the increase in use means people see them outside more and more, and offenders take advantage.

In 2017, insurer NFU Mutual recorded £2.3m worth of claims for quad bikes, which are top targets for thieves as they’re easier to steal and move on than larger farm vehicles.

Jamie Murray, who farms at Sewingshields, explained the vital role of quads to farmers.

He said: “You can’t do your job without them. Particularly nowadays when people farm such large areas.

“We’ve had a few taken in the past, but not for a while – touch wood.

“I would hope they don’t take them in lambing season because that would be a disaster.

“Thieves are going for them in the middle of the day, when they’re left with the keys in them.”

After two thefts from farms in Haltwhistle and Allendale last month, Northumbria Police released some advice on how farmers could avoid having their property taken by unscrupulous thieves.

A black and red Honda 250 ATV was stolen from a farm in Allenheads overnight on Saturday, March 30. A Farmwatch alert suggested a black pickup truck may have been involved.

The bike stolen from the farm in Haltwhistle was believed to have been loaded into a distinctive blue Ford Transit van with white stripes down the middle.

Tynedale’s neighbourhood inspector, Pam Bridges, said: “We know quad bikes are an essential part of farming, especially around lambing season, but there are simple steps that people can take to help protect their property and machinery from potential thieves.

“It’s also important for homeowners to keep their property safe and secure by locking windows and doors so that keys can’t be taken for these vehicles.

“These types of items are expensive to replace and can cause significant financial and emotional stress for the victims.

“We do all we can to tackle these types of crimes but preventative measures can have a huge benefit.”

Advice issued by the police includes securing vehicles when not in use and removing keys, as well as avoiding leaving machinery or quad bikes in fields, particularly near roads.

Quad bikes and trailers should be kept in secure outbuildings or behind locked gates, and where possible ground anchor chains with anchor plates should be used.

Finally, police advise marking trailers, bikes and tolls with postcodes or farm names, as well as recording serial or chassis numbers and fitting vehicles with tracking devices.

Inspector Bridges added: “The public are always fantastic at reporting suspicious activity to us which helps our officers track offenders and prevent crime. We also work closely with groups like Farmwatch to police issues and address concerns from communities.

“Taking precautions like these can help stop thieves in their tracks.”

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police added: “Anyone who has information which may be beneficial to officers is asked to get in touch with police via 101, quoting reference number 041249F/19, or online on our website, or by dropping into their local station.”