POLICE are outlining plans to deal with the continuing problem of sheep rustling in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sheep rustlers have stolen more than £120,000 of sheep from Swaledale alone since May last year, in a spate of 25 separate thefts.

Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire Julia Mulligan said she understood the seriousness of the thefts.

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She said: “Having grown up on a North Yorkshire hill farm, I understand the devastating effects livestock thefts can have on farmers’ livelihoods.

“To support these communities in tackling rural crime, the Chief Constable Dave Jones and I reversed the decision by the former Police Authority to reduce officer numbers.

“We have also invested in our Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology so we can stop travelling criminals before they commit crimes in North Yorkshire.

“Operation Hawk – which targets rural and cross-border crime – is now firmly established, stopping over 800 vehicles and arresting 25 people last month alone.

“But we also need the support of rural communities to act as our eyes and ears on the ground and report any suspicious activity. It is, therefore, very important to report anything suspicious to 101.”

At the first Farm Watch operation of 2014 more than 200 police, fire officers, forestry workers and volunteers covered vast areas of North-East and North Yorkshire.

Police share information with members about suspicious activities and incidents as they happen and farmers are encouraged to do the same in an attempt to combat all rural crime, as well as sheep rustling.