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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Tynedale: Police issue warning as farm thefts rise in winter

LONGER hours of darkness during the winter months have led to a surge in the number of thefts from farms in West Tynedale.

And it seems those responsible aren’t fussy about their targets, opting to steal anything which isn’t bolted down – including livestock.

Now the neighbourhood police inspector for the area has sent out a plea for vigilance across the patch, which covers the rural areas of Hexhamshire, the Allen Valleys, the North Tyne and Redesdale, as well as Hexham and Haltwhistle.

Warning alerts about opportunist thieves operating in the area have been sent out to hundreds of members of the Farmwatch initiative across the district who are kept informed via email and text message.

Since October, 14 crimes involving thieves targeting farms have been reported, with even the most basic of agricultural equipment becoming a target.

“Although the numbers of crimes are relatively low, when you consider that there are hundreds of farms in the area, the types of crimes being reported does suggest thieves are travelling around rural areas looking for an easy target.

“But to stop a lot of it from happening, we do need the co-operation of farmers and landowners, who we can help advise on methods of crime prevention.

“These thieves know farms are often left unattended while farmers are out working in the fields during the day, so it might be something as simple as padlocking a gate, which deters them.”

However, in the case of some of the thefts, using padlocks just simply isn’t possible.

For at one farm near Kirkwhelpington, 40 yearling Texel cross and Mule cross lambs were stolen from a shed where they were being kept with dozens of others.

“This happened sometime between November and January 5, when it was reported to us because the farmer counted up the flock after noticing it looked like numbers had dwindled,” said Insp. Oates.

“They were April’s lambs and were worth about £3,600 in total, which is a lot of money for anyone to lose.”

It wasn’t the first time livestock had been stolen from that particular farm either, for 20 ewes and 40 lambs which had been left to graze on the open fells, were stolen between July and October in 2011.

Earlier this month, between Wednesday, January 2 and Saturday, January 5, an orange metal sheep weighing crate worth £300 was stolen from Coldwell Farm at Humshaugh.

A £500 black Trek mountain bike was taken from a barn at Fir Trees Farm near Wall between Friday, January 4 and Thursday, January 10.

All of these followed the theft of a livestock feeder from a field at East Cocklaw Farm at Humshaugh and a red Suzuki 400cc quad bike from a barn at Latterford Farm, Wark – both of which happened overnight between December 18 and 19.

On Friday, December 14, an orange and white Stihl hedge trimmer, 15 buckets of sheep feed, and a sprayer attachment for a quad bike were taken from an isolated farm near Great Whittington.

Even wheelbarrows haven’t escaped the thieves, as one worth £270 was stolen the same night from Newton Rigg Farm in Wark.

Insp. Oates added: “Most of these thefts have been in that same lower North Tyne area and many are basic day to day items, which shows nothing is safe.”

Police are continuing to investigate all of the thefts mentioned and anyone who has information which may help officers with their inquiries is being asked to contact Hexham Police Station.

Meanwhile, any suspicious vehicles or people in rural areas can be reported on 101 ext 69191.

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