POLICE have launched a scheme to protect isolated farms and businesses in Burnley from crime.
The Business Watch and Farm Watch initiatives have been set up to stop metal thieves and other criminals targeting more remote areas in the borough.
Farmers and businesses will be encouraged to inform police of sightings of suspicious vehicles or other unusual activity so that this information can be relayed to all users of the scheme.
Officers hope that the Neighbourhood Watch-style networks will prove a useful weapon in combating rising metal theft rates and rural crime in the area.
PC Graeme Lund, of Padiham police, explained that outlying areas were more difficult to police and criminals were hitting soft targets like farms, back yards and former industrial areas.
He said: “In the Hapton with Park area, which stretches from Simonstone to Rossendale Road and as far as Baxenden, there are a lot of outlying farms with machinery and a lot of scrap metal.
“Commodities’ merchants are paying such a high value at the moment for metals. It is a very lucrative area to make money in which is OK if it is done in a legitimate manner.
“But criminals are expanding into these kind of areas and they are getting a lot more brave.”
Former industrial sites have been hit such as Hepworth and William Blythe’s and even business parks such as Network 65, off Accrington Road, have become targets for thieves.
But police are now rolling out the Business Watch and Farm Watch schemes to crackdown on crime in these areas.
The idea behind the scheme is to build up an intelligence network and share information on criminal activity quickly and effectively.
PCSO Patrick Broadbent, one of the officers spearheading the initiative, said: “Once we have set up the network we can disseminate information and keep people in the loop about what is going on. But it also lets us know what is going on.
“We want them to be our eyes and ears. It gives us a fighting chance of making us aware quickly and being able to tackle the issue.”
Already businesses have signed up the scheme at Network 65 and Shuttleworth Mead industrial estates but police are hoping more will come on board.
PCSO Broadbent added: “People need to be really careful and observant. We need vehicle registration numbers and descriptions of anyone acting suspicious.”
Anyone wanting to join the Business Watch or Farm Watch schemes can contact PCSO Broadbent on 01282 425001.