POLICE forces across the country are clamping down on the theft of farm and plant machinery.

Thames Valley Police Rural Crime Taskforce, Joint Operations Unit and Heavy Commercial Unit has partnered with Hampshire Constabulary and Sussex Police to perform vehicle checks and offer crime prevention advice.

The operation has been in place for five months and has already recovered about half a million pounds of stolen property from 30 different police force locations across the country.

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Oxford Mail: Inspector Stuart Hutchings Inspector Stuart Hutchings

Police hope that by checking vehicles travelling with heavy machinery on main roads and helping owners understand the importance of crime security that they can deter offenders.

Rural Crime Taskforce Inspector, Stuart Hutchings, said: “The aim is a multi-team operation focusing on tackling plant theft, farm theft, trailers, caravans, and horse boxes that are being stolen.

“We understand that offenders will travel around to commit crime and the stolen property will be moved around so it’s important for us to work with our neighbouring forces, regionally and nationally, to focus on identifying stolen property and the offenders.”

The taskforce were carrying out checks at the DVSA Enforcement Site near the Marcham Interchange in Abingdon today (11).

Vehicles towing heaving machinery, such as JCBs, were pulled into the site and checked over.

“We look at the license plate and check where it’s from,” said Inspector Hutchings. “We also offer crime prevention advice to the drivers to help people understand the importance of crime security.

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Oxford Mail: CAT machine being checkedCAT machine being checked

“People understand the value of a brand-new car but don’t understand the value of a combine harvester, horse box or a tractor.

“So people aren’t really sure and it’s hidden in plain sight. So for us, as important as crime prevention is, it’s advising people about protecting their stuff, locking things away and using CCTV.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Police, Matthew Barber, said the operation demonstrates the proactivity of police “holding those accountable”.

Oxford Mail: Police and Crime Commissioner for TVP, Matthew BarberPolice and Crime Commissioner for TVP, Matthew Barber

He said: “Some criminal gangs will have seen moving vehicles around and exporting them out of the country as relatively risk-free but this puts a bit more jeopardy in there.

“It’s a deterrent. We know that a lot of these crimes are carried out by organised gangs so if we can identify some of those individuals and bring them to justice that will disrupt their activity.”

Police hope the continuous operation will create a “hostile environment for those who commit rural crime”.

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Inspector Hutchings added: “Farm criminality laps into other areas of criminality so we’re also trying to pick up on crime trends and how we can then advise the National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association”.

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