Blues skies over a wheat field

A high profile policing operation has marked the launch of a new crime-fighting initiative to protect Norfolk’s farming communities.

Multi-agency roadside checks on the Norfolk/Cambridgeshire border sought to identify travelling criminals using the main arterial routes into the county.

The action day on Thursday December 16 form part of a new alliance between Norfolk Constabulary and senior agricultural representatives committed to tackling crime affecting rural areas.

Codenamed Operation Randall, farmers and landowners will be encouraged to work collectively with the police to help identify, disrupt and deter criminals targeting the Norfolk countryside.

Det Supt Nick Dean said: “Operation Randall is seeking to target rural crime, in particular those offences that impact on farmers and people who reside or work in isolated locations and whose premises have been vulnerable to attack.

“Whilst it must be stressed that crime levels remain relatively low in Norfolk, rural areas are more prone to offences such as fuel and scrap metal theft along with rural-specific crimes such as theft of agricultural machinery and hare coursing.

“Improvements in information and intelligence received from the community can help us be more effective in enforcement and prevention and we’re grateful for the support given by our partners in the farming community.”

The launch of Operation Randall follows consultation by senior police officers with farming stakeholders across the county including Farm Watch, the National Farmers’ Union, the Norfolk Hunt and Ben Burgess.

It was agreed that improved two-way communication between police and farming communities would help provide a police service that could be more responsive to collective and local needs.

Farmers will be encouraged to report incidents to police to help build intelligence on people or vehicles linked to rural crime and can sign up to receive crime updates by e-mail, voicemail or text via Norfolk Constabulary’s free Police Direct system.

Work will be undertaken to bolster security at the most vulnerable locations.

Tony Bone, director of independent rural security organisation Farm Watch, said: “At this moment in time, the most prevalent crimes we are seeing are thefts of diesel, trailers and teleporters from farm premises and damage caused to property by unlicensed musical events.

“We are very happy to be involved in this scheme and to be working together with the police to crack down on rural crime.”

During today’s roadside checks at locations on the A47 near Wisbech, police teams were joined by officers from the Environment Agency, Trading Standards and VOSA, to carry out checks on vehicles and people of interest.

The team were looking for offences linked to rural crime including those carrying scrap metal or farm machinery, waste carriers operating illegally and tax-dodging motorists running their vehicles on red diesel.

More than 50 vehicles were pulled over with a majority of law-abiding motorists. One person was issued with a fine for driving with no insurance, and Prohibition notices requiring immediate repairs on vehicles were issued by VOSA. Leaflets explaining the nature of the work were distributed to motorists by representatives from Smartwater and the Environment Agency.

Sgt Sam Pontin from Terrington Safer Neighbourhood Team, who led today’s operation, said: “It was pleasing to see that majority of motorists we stopped were law abiding and were supportive of the operation. We will be conducting similar operations in other locations to continue our efforts to stop criminals coming in and out of the county.”

The operation was supported by Norfolk Constabulary’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology which can check the details of passing vehicles instantaneously against a national database of vehicles of interest.

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