LAND Rover owners are being warned their vehicles are being targeted as police ramp up their efforts to catch the thieves.

An analysis of police information and intelligence has revealed a trend of thefts and attempted thefts involving Land Rovers in North Yorkshire.

Police patrols – in both marked and unmarked vehicles – have been increased, and owners are being urged to take extra security precautions.

Several arrests have already been made, and investigations are ongoing.

There have been 21 incidents involving the theft of or interference with Land Rovers in North Yorkshire so far this year, with Craven and Ryedale being the worst-hit districts, and often close to main arterial routes such as the A59 and A64.

There have been three recorded incidents in Hambleton and Richmondshire.

In most cases, the Land Rovers were parked securely, but stolen in hours of darkness.

However, there are early signs that North Yorkshire Police are turning the tide against the criminals – following the arrest of three men in connection with the theft of a Land Rover Defender from the Pickering area earlier this month. Officers used a drone with a thermal imaging camera to track down the stolen vehicle.

The arrested men have been released under investigation while enquiries continue.

In separate incidents, two other men have also been arrested in connection with offences involving Land Rovers – both investigations are ongoing.

Officers are working closely with neighbouring forces, to identify whether organised crime groups may be involved, and to disrupt their criminal activities.

Older models of Land Rover Defenders are highly valuable, due to their continuing popularity and the ease of breaking them down into parts.

Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police said: “In line with national trends, the theft of Land Rovers is an issue in our area and it’s concerning that incidents have increased recently.

“Land Rovers continue to be the workhorses of many farms and rural businesses – so when they are stolen or damaged it has a significant impact. That’s why it’s so important to check your security, and put in place extra measures to defend your Defender.

"Vehicle trackers in particular are invaluable, and can make all the difference in recovering a stolen vehicle and identifying suspects.”