Thames Valley Police is teaming up with other forces in South East England to clamp down on rural crime this week.

The forces from Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, and Thames Valley have formed the South East Partnership Against Rural Crime (SEPARC) to combat criminals who prey on isolated countryside locations.

To kick off the initiative, a range of operations have been organised running from today, February 26, until Friday, March 1.

These operations are aimed at disrupting and deterring individuals involved in wildlife, environmental, heritage and agricultural criminal activities.

Thames Valley Police assistant chief constable Christian Bunt, force lead for rural crime, said: "The aim of the SEPARC week of action is to bring forces closer together in tackling all types of rural crime and the offenders committing them.

"We know criminals use the road networks and docks to transport stolen goods so we will be targeting our operations on those areas, as well as high-visibility patrols and visiting businesses to provide crime prevention advice."

Rural crime is defined as activities that relate to farms, agriculture, wildlife, the environment and heritage sites.

This week's operations include disrupting offenders in tandem with the National Rural Crime Team, providing security guidance at service stations, and stopping suspicious cars on the strategic road network.

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley police commissioner Matthew BarberThames Valley police commissioner Matthew Barber (Image: Natalie Jezzard)

Matthew Barber, Thames Valley police and crime commissioner, said: "Rural crime has a significant impact and can leave our most isolated communities feeling particularly vulnerable.

"The launch of SEPARC will establish cross-border collaboration between police forces across the South East in tackling the most serious and organised rural crime.

"The creation of SEPARC reinforces Thames Valley Police’s commitment to protecting our rural communities and will further strengthen the impact of our Rural Crime Taskforce in pursuing offenders."

Assistant chief constable and lead for rural crime Howard Hodges, of Sussex Police, said: “We will continue to work together with our neighbouring forces to share information and intelligence, to ensure we can prevent, detect and respond to rural crime wherever possible.

“We will also engage with residents, businesses and visitors in our rural areas to offer crime prevention advice.

“We cannot be everywhere all the time, and that’s why we need the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to us. In an emergency, always dial 999.”

Superintendent Pete Steenhuis from Kent Police, shared his forces commitment to tackle rural crime and support victims, while inspector Darren Benge from Surrey Police highlighted the national relevance of the issue.