A GANG of well-organised criminals are targeting rural properties.

In the last week, three quad bikes have been stolen in two incidents which the police believe are connected.

They have issued an urgent warning to farming communities to be on their guard and avoid becoming the next victim.

A farm at Cronberry was raided when the crooks forced entry to an outbuilding with a similar break-in at Darvel taking place soon after.

Anyone who noticed anything suspicious in the Cronberry area between 11pm on December 4 and 5am the next day can help catch the thieves.

They made off with two quad bikes in the Cronberry theft, worth £3,500 and £1,200, both are red Honda All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).

One was registered in 2005 and the other in 2010 and anyone with information on the incidents or the whereabouts of the ATVs is asked to contact police.

Call PC Thomson at Cumnock Police Station, on 101, quoting incident number 0737/512 or Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111.

Safer Communities Officer, Craig Marshall, said: “I would urge people living in rural areas to review their security arrangements.

“Owners should park as close to their premises as possible, preferably out of sight from nearby roads and remove keys when not in use.

“Keep a record of all vehicles with photographs and serial numbers and fit tracking devices for high value vehicles and machinery.”

Other deterrents include marking or customising property so it is easily identifiable and secure all gates with sturdy padlocks.