A CAMPAIGN to combat rural crime with a week of high-profile policing activity across the Ribble Valley has been launched.
Operation Firecrest will see officers from Lancashire Constabulary conducting extra patrols; targeting suspected offenders; making visits to farms and rural businesses to offer crime prevention advice; and hosting community meetings as well as providing a police presence at auction marts and other key locations.
In addition, specialist wildlife officers and representatives from the Environment Agency, United Utilities and other agencies will be carrying out enforcement activity including anti-poaching patrols and warrants.
Multi-agency roadside checks will also be taking place throughout the week to identify travelling criminals and to deter the theft of livestock and plant equipment.
Finally, farmers, landowners and gamekeepers will be encouraged to work collectively with the police to help identify, disrupt and deter criminals targeting the Lancashire countryside through initiatives like Farm Watch and Rural Watch.
Commenting on the campaign, Supt Richard Spedding from Lancashire Police said: “Nationally, there has been a marked increase in rural crime but fortunately, here in Lancashire, any increases in rural crime have been small and overall crime levels across the county are still low.
“However, any increase will clearly cause concern, particularly amongst communities who feel isolated like rural communities, which is why we are determined to take action.
“The most common type of offences in our rural communities include fuel and scrap metal theft as well as theft of agricultural machinery and offences like poaching and hare coursing. These are the type of activities we hope to target as part of Operation Firecrest.
Our intention is to offer advice and reassurance to our rural communities to help prevent crime, to work with local communities to detect crime and of course, to target offenders and send a clear message to them that their behaviour is not acceptable and will most likely result in arrest.
The campaign has been welcomed by local farmer Ally Weare, from Gisburn. His family has been farming livestock for over 50 years and share national concerns about rural crime.
Ally said: “Fortunately we’ve not experienced any significant losses but we have had several sheep worried by poachers’ dogs and the farm and vehicles have suffered criminal damage.
“I welcome this new campaign and in particular the extra high visibility police presence which I think is essential to reassure farmers and to deter thieves.”
Anybody who would like to speak to an officer to discuss concerns about rural crime or report suspicious activity that they have seen and not yet reported, should contact local police on 0845 125 3545.