|Superintendent Richard Spedding with Farmer Ally Weare during Operation Firecrest|
Over £50,o00 of cash and stolen property was seized during raids on suspect addresses as part of Operation Firecrest, including power tools, trailers, quad bikes and motorcycles. A total of 21 people were arrested in connection with offences of hare coursing, burglary, money laundering, poaching, theft and handling stolen goods.
The operation, which ran between Monday 19th and Friday 23rd September, also uncovered a significant fuel laundering plant in Morecambe - which is one of the most commonly stolen rural commodities.
More than 30 rural crime suspects were visited and handed warning letters and officers visited over 20 scrap yards. Over 200 vehicles were stopped and three people were arrested for road traffic offences.
Despite the success, police are warning that the fight against rural crime will continue.
“Operation Firecrest has been hugely successful," said Superintendent Richard Spedding, "and I'm delighted with the response we’ve had from both farmers and rural residents.
“Fortunately, in Lancashire, any increases in rural crime have been small and overall crime levels across the county are still low," he added. "Clearly, any increase in crime will cause concern, particularly amongst people living in rural communities who feel isolated, which is why the operation was so important.
“I hope it has sent a clear message to people involved in rural crime that both police and communities will not tolerate this type of behaviour and will work together to identify those involved and bring them to justice.
“We will continue to focus our activities on those criminals who persistently target rural areas so that we can reduce even further the number of victims affected by these crimes.”
Action during Operation Firecrest included additional patrols in rural areas; visits to farms and rural businesses to offer crime prevention advice and attendance at auction marts. Specialist wildlife officers and representatives from the Environment Agency, United Utilities and other agencies carried out anti-poaching patrols and warrants.
Multi-agency roadside checks took place throughout the week to identify travelling criminals and to deter the theft of livestock and plant equipment.
Farmers, landowners and gamekeepers were encouraged to work with the police to help identify, disrupt and deter criminals targeting the Lancashire countryside through initiatives like Farm Watch and Rural Watch.
• Anybody who would like to speak to an officer to discuss concerns about rural crime or report suspicious activity that they have seen and not yet reported, should contact local police on 0845 1 25 35 45.