POLICE are warning criminals who target the farming industry that they are cracking down on crime in rural areas.

Superintendent Andy Huddleston, from Northumbria Police, national lead for agricultural machinery and vehicle thefts, said: “Nationally, we have seen a pattern emerge in how these sophisticated criminal groups operate and the types of premises they are targeting.

“We know many offenders see this type of crime as low risk with a high gain – and there are often a number of factors to this. We are talking about high-value machinery which is in demand both here and abroad, and it is often stored in yards and buildings away from dwellings where these groups feel they are less likely to be caught in the act.

“We see things differently – these crimes have a terrible impact on UK farming as they can ruin livelihoods.

“So, let me make it clear, if anyone is involved in organised and serious crime, we will pursue them and ultimately do everything in our power to bring them to justice.

“As a force, we are committed to tackling this kind of activity and protecting the public from the potential harmful effects it can have.”

Police in Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland are working with the North East Specialist Operations Unit as part of Operation Sentinel to tackle crime groups targeting isolated rural areas.

Suspicious activity can be reported by calling 101, or through the Rural Crime Reporting Line anonymously 0800 783 0137 or by visiting www.ruralcrimereportingline.uk.