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Stolen farming equipment seized by officers in Somerset following revamped rural affairs strategy

Police car at sunset

Officers from Avon and Somerset’s Rural Affairs Unit, Operation Remedy, and Operational Support Team have seized a large quantity of stolen property following the successful execution of a warrant in Somerset last week.

Twenty-six items of plant machinery, farm and highways equipment were recovered at a farm site near Sparkford, Somerset on Friday 16 October, many of which have been identified as stolen from locations across the country.

Police have contacted the known victims of the thefts and work is ongoing to identify the owners of the remaining equipment.

Two men were arrested from the site on suspicion of theft and have been released under investigation.

The operation is part of a revitalised rural affairs strategy for Avon and Somerset, which sees officers working closely with victims of rural crime and sharing information across neighbourhood policing teams.

Increased investment from the force and an emphasis on community intelligence building has enabled rural affairs officers to build a clearer picture of organised crime groups targeting rural communities, resulting in successful warrants.

Farm Watch, an initiative unique to Avon and Somerset, was established in 2008 to help farmers and members of rural communities provide information to police. Now with more than 4000 members, the scheme gives police the ability to send live updates, alerting members to thefts or suspicious activity in the area, as well as providing crime prevention tips.

Police are now aiming to grow its existing membership by supporting a six month trial of select Police Community Support Officers acting as Farm Watch Ambassadors, with responsibility for promoting the scheme and improving sign ups.

“This is brilliant work from the Rural Affairs Unit, Op Remedy and Operational Support Teams, and I am delighted that victims were reunited with their stolen equipment.

“I would urge those who live in rural communities to join Farm Watch, Horse Watch or Neighbourhood Watch schemes; by using your knowledge and awareness of what is happening on and around your land, you can help the police deter criminals.”

PCC Sue Mountstevens

Rural Affairs Sergeant Andy Murphy said: “The impact of rural crime on its victims, who carry out essential work in our communities, is often devastating.

“We are determined to reduce rural crime by working together with Farm Watch and our internal and external partners.

“Information provided by the public has made our recent successes possible. We continue to urge people to report suspicious activity when they see it by contacting us on 101, or 999 in an emergency.

“It could be the missing piece of a puzzle that helps us to prevent crimes or stop them in progress, and to bring offenders to justice.”