A CROSS-FORCE operation targeting rural criminals has been staged across the north of England.

Six police forces were involved in Operation Checkpoint, now in its fifth year and still considered the biggest co-ordinated drive to curb crime in the countryside.

More than 110 police officers, PCSOs and special constables from the North Yorkshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire and Northumbria forces worked alongside almost 100 volunteers on Thursday night.

The forces involved share intelligence and information, as well as patrolling across force boundaries to target criminals, disrupting their use of the road network in rural areas and bringing anyone found breaking the law to justice.

Police tactics included the widespread use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to locate vehicles suspected of being connected to crime, as well as targeting vehicles seen in suspicious circumstances.

In County Durham and Darlington, the operation involved officers, PCSOs and ‘specials’ from the force’s neighbourhood policing teams who worked alongside Farm Watch volunteers, mountain rescue teams and members of the community.

Dozens of vehicles were stopped and checked to help prevent and disrupt criminal activity in rural areas and gather intelligence.

Inspector Ed Turner, who led the operation for Durham Police, said: “As always, Operation Checkpoint sends a clear message to criminals using the road networks to target our rural communities that their illegal activity won’t be tolerated.

“We have excellent working relationships with neighbouring forces, and operations like Checkpoint help us share resources and information to clamp down on criminals, wherever they are from and wherever they are going.

“We have had incredible support from volunteers, including mountain rescue teams, Farm Watch volunteers and members of the local community.

“It was also great to see so many new faces who have recently joined up to the Farm Watch scheme coming out to help.

“It is only with their support and local knowledge that we are able to run operations like Checkpoint and effectively target rural crime.

“Once again, we’re extremely grateful for their efforts.

“Local people can be reassured our proactive work will continue to make life extremely difficult for criminals and protect our rural communities.”

• Anyone interested in joining Farm Watch should contact their local neighbourhood policing team, via 101.