OWNERS of agricultural machinery and utility vehicles are being urged to take steps to avoid becoming another victim of crime.

Officers specialising in rural crime have issued a series of guidelines in reaction to a number of incidents in Dumfries and Galloway, including Upper Nithsdale.

One crucial piece of basic advice is to remove keys at all times when the equipment or vehicle is not in use — in addition, keys should be stored in a locked cabinet away from the vehicle location.

Leaving keys in a vehicle, which leads to be stolen, can be deemed as not taking reasonable steps to secure your property. This may invalidate your insurance cover.

Other ways in which to prevent being targeted by crooks include —

Keep a record of all machinery and vehicle serial numbers, this information is essential if your vehicle is stolen.

Fit steering locks.

Mark or customise your vehicle so it is easily identifiable. This can deter thieves and assist recovery if they are stolen.

Consider fitting vehicle tracking devices.

Park the vehicle in a well lit area covered by a good quality CCTV system.

In one recent incident in the Cumnock area, thieves abandoned a stolen vehicle when they realised it had been fitted with a CESAR security marking system.

CESAR, which stands for Construction and Agricultural Equipment Security and Registration Scheme, uses a unique electronic registration deterrent system.

A complete guide, called Security in the Rural Environment, can be accessed from the Police Scotland website, while comprehensive crime prevention advice can be obtained from the Safer Communities Team by telephoning 101.

Any suspicious activity should be reported to Police Scotland by calling 101, or alternatively information can be passed anonymously to Crime stoppers on 0800 555 111. For emergencies call 999.