A high resale value a make quad bikes a prime target for criminals stealing to order
When a farmer looks at a quad bike he sees a utility vehicle that can help speed up the workload on the farm.
When a criminal looks at a quad bike he sees potentially easy pickings that can be resold with relative ease for big money. And as the popularity of quad bikes among farmers has increased - especially among those expanding their holdings - so too has the problem of quad bike theft.
"Quad bikes have been the number one item on the shopping list for criminals who enter farmyards for the last number of years," says Barry Carey, the IFA's Crime Prevention Officer. "When a criminal looks at a quad bike he sees "€10,000 in the space of a metre and a half".
"These guys love quad bikes because of there resale value. There is a market there for them, and there is quite a lot of them are going out of the country."
Carey says quad bike theft is organised to a large degree, citing a spate of thefts in the south-west which saw dozens of vehicles stolen.
"There was a spate of it in Limerick, Tipperary and Kerry. They were going into yards at night time, and quads were the only thing they were interested in."
A garda investigation led to arrests and a number of convictions, but quad bike theft remains a serious concern for farmers.
Most of the stolen quads are shipped abroad, but some criminals do attempt to resell them in Ireland.
"If they can doctor them up enough, they'll put them back onto the market here under a different guise," says Carey. "You will get people who say 'that quad is a great bargain', but if it's such a great bargain there might be something wrong with it," he warns.
Dairy farmer and IFA vice president Brian Rushe (pictured below) says deterrent action is needed.
"I have a quad here myself. It's a very easy thing to transport away quickly. That's the big problem with quads - they are not hard to take out of a farm," he says.
Some of most effective things farmers can do are among the cheapest.
"Get a set of gates for the yard. Put a lock on those gates. Make sure any back entrances to yards are locked and secured - unsecured back entrances to yards are lethal.
"Another option I've seen many farmers adopt is to have the quad in the garage with the doors locked and have the car or jeep parked against it, so the quad can't be moved," he says.
He also stresses that farmers should report everything to the Gardai and make sure that they have a record of the serial number of the quad so it can be identified if recovered.
"The Gardai have warehouses in every division in the country full of stolen property, but identifying the owners has become extremely challenging.
"We have sent out thousands of messages to affected parties to say the Gardai are having an open day putting on show stolen property and recovered items," says Rushe.
"People go and say that's such a piece of equipment is theirs, but can they prove it. Where's the serial number?" he said.
Property marking can make all the difference, he explains.
"One, it is a great deterrent and, two, it dramatically improves the chances of recovery."
Tracking devices can also be an effective means of deterring crime and recovering property that has been stolen.
"IFA have been working with a number of companies to use technology to track quads," says Barry Carey.
However, he acknowledges that this is a more high-cost option.
"Often the devices can set farmers back over €1,000 and farmers say to themselves 'I'm after spending €10,000 on a quad, I'm not spending another €1000 on a tracking device'."
In the long run, though, it's money well spent, says Carey.
"They (tracking devices) are really making an impact and have both prevented the theft of vehicles and aided in the recovery of stolen property."
However, criminals are wising up to the presence of tracking devices on quads and other farm machinery.
"They go straight for the battery and check for external wires that might be powering tracking devices," says Carey.
In response, the latest tracking devices are being made incredibly small with their own battery-power so that criminals they can't find them.
And 'geo-fencing' is another new technology which could be a game-changer in the battle against criminals.
"It works off the principle that a quad should never leave a specific area.
"If it does you get a text to say your quad is going down the road at 50km per hour when it normally only goes at 30km per hour.
"So straight away you know it's been taken, and the Gardai can use the info to catch these guys," he says.
Looking at the bigger picture, Brian Rushe says that building stronger relationships between the IFA's branch network and the Gardai needs to become a critical part of the organisation's crime prevention policy.
"We need to develop a platform that will enable local branch chairpersons and the Gardai to work closely together to prevent these thefts.
"It's as simple as this - farmers need to know who their local garda is."
Toyota Land Cruisers, even those up to 10 years old are also prime targets for criminals, according to IFA crime prevention officer, Barry Carey.
Extremely popular among farmers, up to 40 of the vehicles were stolen in rural areas in late 2018 and 2019.
The thefts of the often old and banged up jeeps left Gardai baffled, with the north-east of the country particularly targeted.
The thefts were linked to a criminal gang working to order in the region.
A pattern emerged in all the robberies. Household entry was gained through breaking the back door lock or cutting a hole in the window to get to the car keys usually kept by householders in the kitchen area.
And a global shortage of parts for Toyota Land Cruisers has been driving the thefts.
"In the last year and a half, there was a huge spike in Land Cruiser thefts," says Carey.
"In one three-month period there was over 40 stolen in the north-east alone. You're talking north Dublin, south Meath and south Louth.
"They are being taken to chop shops, and the parts are being sold on."
However, he adds that the Gardai have had notable success in targeting gangs in the north Dublin area in recent times.