Two boys lent police their bicycles as they were chasing suspected thieves on foot.
Northamptonshire officers were called to Daventry after reports of people forcing their way into a builder's yard.
A van was found abandoned and police said bystanders were giving them directions during the pursuit.
The boys then lent the officers their bikes, leading to two men being arrested and charged with theft.
Police said a dumper truck was loaded into the back of a van on Carisbrooke Way on Monday.
Sgt Matt Bailey said: "The public support during this incident was fantastic and led directly to the capture, arrest and charging of these two individuals.
"I would like to thank all of them for their help, but especially the two boys who lent me their bicycles.
"It was great to know how much they wanted us to succeed in catching up with the suspects."
The two boys have been invited to spend a day with the force's response team.