Quad bikes have been targeted in a crimewave which could top £500,000.

Sussex owners of the sought-after machines have had their homes targeted by thieves.

Worried crime prevention experts said 80 bikes, worth between £3,000 and £7,000 each, had been stolen in the county this year.

In the past week, three machines have been stolen from homes in rural areas near Chichester.

They include one valued at £6,500, which went missing from a house at Plaistow, and another from Lurgashall worth £6,300.

The third bike disappeared from a property at Little Bognor, near Petworth, together with a horse trailer which the owner estimated were valued together at £7,500.

Police believed many of the thefts were being carried out by thieves touring rural areas in Sussex.

They are also worried more thefts could take place in the run up to Christmas.

Phil Marten, crime prevention co-ordinator for Chichester, said: "Quad bikes are very expensive pieces of equipment, there is a market for them and I am sure there are people going round the countryside looking out for them and returning at night to steal.

"It is likely these thieves are visiting homes saying they are looking for work just to see what is in the yard and whether it is worth coming back."

Mr Marten said Christmas was another factor in the wave of thefts. "To have three stolen in the first week of December means people should be vigilant.

"People living in rural areas can sometimes be a little casual about equipment and do not stop to think that there are those who are constantly on the look-out for an opportunity to steal.

"Owners of quad bikes should keep them locked away when they are not in use and out of sight of prying eyes."