Police officers have received expert advice from farmers to help clamp down on livestock theft, as part of a pioneering new specialist training scheme.
Sixteen North Yorkshire Police officers have been given practical training in identifying sheep – from the high-tech, such as the use of electronic ear tag readers, to the traditional, like recognising fleece markings.
They have also been given guidance in basic sheep handling skills, learning how and why sheep move at certain times of the year – even what kind of questions to ask of anyone they stop with sheep in transit.
The scheme, organised by the NFU, has also seen the creation of a network of local farmers, who will be available to offer assistance to officers at the roadside, in case they need extra support. Auction marts in Leyburn and Skipton are also offering temporary emergency housing for sheep when animals are seized by the police.
Twelve officers in Hambleton, Richmondshire, and four in Craven have already been putting their training into practice, with a number of pro-active stop checks – and further operations are planned in the run-up to Christmas.
Chief Inspector Nick Hunter, rural crime lead at North Yorkshire Police, said:
We take livestock theft and all forms of rural crime extremely seriously. This pioneering training scheme sends a strong message to criminals who prey on our rural communities that our officers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to identify and put a stop to their illegal trade.
Officers have already received excellent feedback from farmers, who are strongly supportive of this scheme. We will continue to work with our communities, the NFU and the farming industry to ensure we do everything we can to tackle livestock theft.
North Riding and Durham County Adviser Laurie Norris said:
This latest training for local police officers, designed to help them get to grips with the complexities of the sheep industry, is part of an ongoing campaign by the NFU to raise the profile of sheep theft and support the police in their efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.
North Yorkshire Police are one of a handful of forces currently working with us on this and are to be commended for their approach. I hope the success we are having in North Yorkshire will lead other police forces to follow suit.
According to insurer NFU Mutual, an estimated 13,000 animals were stolen from Yorkshire and the North East in the last year, costing the region £1.2 million.