PEOPLE who live in rural areas and have valuable equipment such as quad bikes or farming machinery are being urged to make sure that their outbuildings are properly secured.

Hampshire Constabulary believe a recent spike in thefts of items such as quad bikes, power tools, gardening equipment or farm machinery is down to organised crime groups.

They are urging the public to remain vigilant and not to confront anyone who they believe is "engage[d] in this particular type of criminality".

Instead, residents should call 999 immediately if a crime is in progress.

Police Sergeant Stuart Ross from Hampshire's specialist Country Watch Team said: “We have seen a series of burglaries of outbuildings occurring overnight and in the early hours of the morning in rural districts. The suspects are targeting farm machinery, quad bikes and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and anything of value such as power tools.

“This is not something that is unique to Hampshire, it is also happening across county borders and right across the UK.

“We believe many of these thefts are connected to organised crime groups who are exporting stolen quad bikes abroad. This shows a level of planning by the criminals, so being aware and reporting suspicious vehicles and people is really important.

“Rural crime is a priority for us and we will continue to relentlessly pursue suspects. The community are our eyes and ears and we encourage you to report all incidents as soon as you are able to by calling 101 if it’s not an emergency. If it’s happening there and then, always call 999.

“You can also report suspicious activity online (if it’s not an emergency) by visiting our website or clicking on this link:

“I would like to assure residents and landowners that we take this type of crime extremely seriously. We are conducting patrols in rural areas but we would urge anyone to ensure as far as possible to secure and alarm their buildings and property mark their equipment. Consider installing CCTV, tracker devices, automatic security lights and intruder alarm systems."

If you have any information about rural crime, call 101 and quote Operation Rebate. You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If you are offered goods in suspicious circumstances, always report it by calling 101.