A DAY of action aimed at targeting criminals who commit rural crime has been hailed a success.

Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police joined police forces from across England and Wales as part of Operation Checkpoint, a countrywide campaign focused on disrupting criminals who use road networks to offend in rural areas.

The operation ran throughout November 8, into the early hours of November 9, and saw dozens of officers from both forces involved.

Inspector Ed Turner of Durham Police said: “This operation has been aimed primarily at disrupting organised crime groups who operate between force areas committing acquisitive crime, potentially countrywide and predominantly in rural areas. We have carried out a number of stop checks across the county targeting suspicious vehicles and those which relate to police intelligence.

“We also provided high visibility reassurance to members of the public and rural communities and gave out education messages and advice on security.

“Police and Farmwatch volunteers will continue to work together to keep rural areas safe, sharing information on a day-to-day basis and taking part in future operations.”

During the day of action, police officers, police community support officers and special constables worked alongside firearms licensing staff, farmers and environment agency officers.

More than 20 vehicles were stopped or checked across the force area and the owners of two suspicious vehicles seen in Consett were visited. Seven people were spoken to in Weardale and three of those were searched. One man is under investigation for carrying a bladed article.

In Barnard Castle, a fixed penalty notice was given to a man for disorder and two verbal warnings were issued for poaching. In Peterlee, a motorcycle was seized.

Officers also carried out a number of engagement and awareness raising events at Darlington Cattle Mart and Sam Turner & Sons.

Insp Ed Turner said: “We want to send the message that rural areas are not soft targets and we will not tolerate offending in our areas.

“The impact of rural crime is far-reaching. Farms are not only places of business, but they are homes for farmers and their family. It is not right that rural communities are subject to criminal acts right on their doorstep.

“Rural communities are our eyes and ears and we encourage everyone to report crime and suspicious incidents.”

Ron Hogg, Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, added: “Rural crime can have a significant impact upon victims and the community. This is a great example of continued work across County Durham and Darlington to tackle rural crime.

"This operation clearly demonstrates the enthusiasm and dedication which our rural officers and volunteers have to improve safety in our rural communities.

"Safety in our rural communities is as important to me as policing our more urban towns and is part of a long term commitment, as set out in the Rural Policing Statement 2019, which sets out how Durham Constabulary and I will tackle rural issues.”

In the Northumbria Police area, two men were reported for poaching offences and ten vehicles stopped and checked which resulted in the seizure of a van, two air rifles, lamping equipment, a battery, as well as four dead rabbits.

Northumbira Police Superintendent Helena Barron added: “The night was another brilliant team effort and an example of the partnerships involved to tackle issues around rural crime."

“Our presence in the area sends out a clear message that rural-related crime will not be tolerated, and we will continue to work with our partners in the future to clamp down on this kind of offending.

"People living and working in these communities are our eyes and ears and we rely on their information to help us build up a picture of what is going on.

"By working together we will continue to make sure Northumberland remains a safe place to live and work.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “This proactive activity demonstrates that tackling rural crime continues to be high on our agenda here in Northumberland.

“I’m pleased that effective policing and partnership work is paying off and, as always, urge residents and partners to report anything they see that is suspicious – together we are making a difference.”

Anyone with concerns can report suspicious activity in rural areas by calling police on 101 and asking to speak with their Neighbourhood Policing Team.