THREE police forces have announced a link-up with a neighbourhood watch organisation to fight rural crime across their areas.

Durham, Cleveland and North Yorkshire Police will work with Darlington-based Countryside Crime Watch (CCW) to curb the activities of thieves, poachers, trespassers, flytippers and drug users.

CCW already works closely with Durham Police to tackle the actions of criminals on farmland around Darlington and co-ordinator Brian Pavey said he was delighted to see the scheme expand.

Mr Pavey, a Darlington gamekeeper, said: "A lot of criminals travel across force boundaries, from county to county, and this link-up is about sharing intelligence about their activities."

Cleveland officer Detective Constable Dave Sanders, based in Stockton, said: "There is no mindset among criminals that they reach a force boundary and stop.

"Our message is that we are all sharing information about them, which is very important because, for instance, we are finding that poachers are involved in other crimes as well."

Also supporting the initiative is North Yorkshire Police.

PC John Wilbor, based in Richmond, said: "One of the big problems we have is break-ins at sheds and garages and, hopefully, this link-up is a way of curbing the criminals' movements into our area."

Among recent concerns in the Darlington area has been targeting of quad bikes by thieves.

Darlington officers have been advising CCW members, many of whom are farmers, on crime prevention measures such as using SmartWater to mark items and improved lighting at their properties.

Sergeant Paul Robinson, based in Darlington, said: "Many of these crimes are opportunist crimes.

"What we are trying to do, is raise awareness about what can be done to prevent them."