POLICE using thermal imaging equipment and a helicopter arrested suspected quad bike thieves.

At about 8.20pm on Monday, a resident in Thorpe, near Grassington,  noticed suspicious activity at his garage, where a quad bike was parked. He challenged two men who were inside, and they ran away and made off in a car nearby, say police.

A spokesperson said: "Police officers attended immediately and contained the surrounding area.Rural Watch volunteers were also in the area, and provided information on the vehicle’s whereabouts. It was located abandoned a few minutes later.

"Officers from the force’s Rural Taskforce used thermal imaging equipment, and quickly spotted two heat sources in a wooded area near Bolton Abbey. The NPAS police helicopter flew overhead, and guided officers to the exact location on the ground."

Two men were arrested. Searches continued, and a few hours later a third suspect was located and arrested near Burley- in -Wharfedale.

All three, aged in their 30s and from West Yorkshire, were arrested on suspicion of attempted vehicle theft.

The men were later released on bail, with conditions not to enter North Yorkshire, while enquiries continue.

Inspector Clive Turner, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “Our response to reports of quad bike theft should send a clear message to criminals – we have the resources in place to find you, and arrest you.

“Thanks to our network of vigilant Rural Watch volunteers, as well as our specialist resources such as our off-road motorcycle team, NPAS air support and thermal imaging equipment, quad bike thieves won’t be able to get in and out of North Yorkshire unchallenged.

“We know how important quad bikes are to our rural communities, and the impact that their theft can have on farms and other businesses. If you own a quad, please ensure you have security measures in place to protect it, and report any suspicious activity to us immediately so we can take action.”