Leicestershire Police’s rural team is drafting in a Market Harborough-based officer as it’s being more than doubled in size.
The force’s specialist unit team is being beefed up from three officers to eight in a new bid to crack down on and beat countryside crime in Harborough and across Leicestershire and Rutland.
“All eight officers have a background in farming and a determination to tackle those issues which affect our rural and farming communities - including machinery theft, rural, wildlife and heritage crime,” said Leicestershire Police.
“They are supported by the force’s 18 wildlife officers, heritage watch volunteers and those neighbourhood officers on rural beats.”
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Sgt Paul Archer, PC Rob Cross and PC Chris Vickers launched the dedicated squad at the end of 2021 as part of a renewed Rural Crime Strategy.
The five new officers are:
· PC Kelly Tones (Market Harborough Neighbourhood Policing Area (NPA))
· PC Emma-Louise Holmes - due to go on maternity leave but will be covered by PC Riannon Simpson (North West Leicestershire NPA)
· PC Mike Statt (Hinckley/Market Bosworth NPA)
· PC Matt Houghton (Melton & Rutland NPA)
· PC Lauren De Wet (Charnwood NPA).
Each local police area now also has a new 4x4 Ford Ranger vehicle to help officers patrol off-road and in other rural areas.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Adam Streets said: “The initial team of three has made a big impact in the last year in terms of recovering hundreds of thousands of pounds of stolen machinery, making significant arrests, cross border working and encouraging reporting.
“I am delighted that we are able to expand the team further and invest in additional resources,” said Mr Streets.
“We know the high impact rural crime can have on those who live and work in the countryside so this expanded team will be dedicated to tackling those issues and are supported further by neighbourhood officers on rural beats and the force’s wildlife officers.”
Harriet Ranson, National Farmers' Union county adviser for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire & Rutland, said:
“Having worked very closely with Leicestershire Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and National Farmers' Union farmer members over the last two years, I am delighted with the announcement that within a year of its inception the original three-man rural crime team, who have already made a significant difference, is getting an additional five officers to ensure specialist cover across the rural beat.
“I anticipate this progress being built on further in the near future,” added Harriet.
“Rural crime is not a side issue – it has a devastating and lasting impact on its victims – with offences often linked to organised criminal gangs.
Police and Crime Commissioner Rupert Matthews said: “I have always been clear that our rural areas in Leicestershire and Rutland require robust policing.
“Crimes such as hare-coursing, burglary, dangerous driving, fly-tipping, farm robberies and church lead thefts blight our villages and farms.
“Today is a time for celebration,” he said.
“We are evidently delivering on my promise and I assure you this is just the start.”