Police tackling rural crime in new campaign

Andy Webster
Andy Webster

Organised crime gangs who prey on farmers and steal expensive agricultural machinery are to be targeted in a week-long crackdown on rural crime.

The operation, Firecrest III, launched this week, will see Garstang Neighbourhood Police conduct extra patrols and combat crimes, including theft of scrap metal, livestock and poaching.

Visits will also be made to farms and rural businesses and officers will host community meetings as well as providing a police presence at rural events.

The annual Rural Crime Survey revealed that ‘agri-theft’ has reached a five-year low, but rural crime still cost Lancashire £1.3m in 2012.

Specialist wildlife officers and representatives from the Environment Agency, United Utilities, HMRC and other agencies will carry out enforcement activity including anti-poaching patrols, warrants and checks on places like scrap metal yards, local auction marts, ports and other key locations.

Roadside checks will also take place to identify catch out criminals and to deter thieves. Farm tools, quad bikes and fuel are thought to be the most frequently stolen items.

Det Supt Andy Webster said: “The value of items stolen can be significant.“

impact of crime can be severe, particularly amongst communities who already feel isolated, which is why we are determined to take action.

“The most common type of offences in our rural communities include fuel, scrap metal and vehicle or plant theft, burglary of homes and outbuildings and offences like poaching and hare coursing.Meanwhile across the Ribble Valley more than 12 poaching incidents have been reported since May 2013 by members of the public, local farmers, and gamekeepers. Over the last few weeks, police have seen incidents relating to the large amount of wild deer, hares and rabbits which inhabit the area.

Around three weeks ago, the butchered carcass of a Sika Deer was found near to Bolton by Bowland. The deer appeared to have been shot and butchered at the scene before being hidden to be collected at a later time.

Ribble Valley Wildlife Crime officer PC Carl Chew has sent out over 20 anti-poaching letters to people suspected of poaching within the Ribble Valley.