By Louise Walsh
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has asked farmers to be vigilant in Meath after the theft of the 15th Land Cruiser in three months has left gardai baffled
Some farmers in the county are reportedly padlocking their gates after 15 such vehicles were taken in robberies since June 1.
Most of the robberies were at farmhouses when car keys were accessed during break-ins to houses within an eight-mile radius in north-west Meath.
After a lull in thefts, three more Landcruisers were targeted across the county in the last few weeks.
The latest, which took place on Tuesday night at a farm at Coolronan, Ballivor has left the owners and gardai 'baffled', according to Meath Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Dean Kerins.
"The theft of the 09 LH registered Silver Toyota Land Cruiser was taken at about 10.45pm on Tuesday night.
"However, there doesn't appear to be any signs of an attempted break-in and the owner still had the only set of car keys when he discovered the theft," said Sgt Kerins.
Last weekend, neighbours reportedly helped to foil the theft of a Landcruiser, when it was taken from Navan while the owner temporarily left it to check his land last Saturday morning.
The neighbours jumped into their cars to scout for the missing vehicle and spotted it hidden in a field, not far from where it was stolen.
Gardai are investigating the possibility that vehicles taken after break-ins at farmhouses during the night may be linked to a criminal gang who are targeting Land Cruisers in particular, due to demand.
Sgt Kerins is again urging owners of jeeps and Landcruisers to be vigilant at all times and consider installing a tracking device.
"The criminals seem to be particularly interested in Landcruisers and although investigations are continuing, it is likely to be an organised gang taking the jeeps in most cases.
"There seems to be a pattern emerging as in all the robberies, entry was gained through breaking the back door lock or cutting a hole in the window to get to the car keys - which are mainly always kept by householders in the kitchen area."
"A security review should be carried out checking all aspects of home security to offer the best protection," he further advised.
Meanwhile, the IFA has also rowed in to ask farmers to be alert of any suspicious behaviour.
"I'd ask farmers to be diligent with their vehicles and make sure they are locked at all times," said IFA's Regional Development Officer for Meath, Anthony Clinton
"Keep car keys in a safe place out of sight and close all farm gates. Use security cameras and anything else that may be a deterrent.
"Sometimes stolen vehicles are hidden away for a few days before being moved on in case they have tracker devices.
"Many farmers are part of community alerts but gardai should also be notified in the event of anything suspicious," he concluded.