OFFICERS from five police forces covering 6,500 square miles of countryside came together for a night of operations across the North to crack down on rural crime.

Dozens of officers from Cleveland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumbria and North Yorkshire were involved in Operation Checkpoint, the largest rural policing operation of its kind, throughout Thursday and into the early hours of Friday.

Operation Checkpoint aims to gather intelligence on cross-border criminals and provide high-visibility reassurance to local communities, disrupting criminal activity through intelligence-led patrols and Automatic Number Plate Recognition.

Two men were arrested in County Durham, one for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle and cannabis possession and a second man was arrested after checks on the Police National Computer revealed he was wanted for offences in the Northumbria force area.

Another man was arrested after a VW Passat failed to stop for Operation Checkpoint officers near Barnard Castle and was later picked up by traffic officers, who arrested the driver for driving offences and offences linked to a large amount of cash found in his car.

Two other men were cautioned for possession of an offensive weapon near Wolsingham.

The NPCC Rural Affairs Strategy, launched at an event in Harrogate in July, identified that organised crime groups target rural communities across a range of crime types– including farm machinery, plant and vehicle theft, livestock theft and poaching.

A police spokesperson said rural areas are often considered soft targets, with criminals using minor roads and travelling long distances to reduce the chance of detection.

Inspector Andy Reeves, of Durham police, said: “Police operations like this send a message to criminals that we will not tolerate offending in our areas.

“Forces will continue to work together, not only to disrupt criminal activity, but also to provide reassurance and support to local residents and businesses, and keep them safe.

“By working together across force borders we can share information and identify criminals wherever they are from and wherever they are going."