Farmers team up with police on rural crimeBy Victoria Corbett
July 12, 2010
Thieves targeting expensive farming equipment and fly-tippers blighting the countryside are being tackled under a police initiative.
Wokingham police have been working in close partnership with local farmers to create a network of information and crime prevention among landowners since last year.
The latest development in the initiative will be to offer SmartWater, which marks items of property and enables them to be returned to their owners if found.
It also leaves a mark visible only under UV light on anyone who had been in touch with the substance.
The technology also acts a deterrent to thieves, as people who are arrested and taken into custody by Wokingham police are all scanned for traces of SmartWater.
Inspector Pete Oliphant, deputy commander of Wokingham police, said: “SmartWater is about deterrent as well.
“Considering every prisoner is scanned for SmartWater, it sends a clear message to them there is a system in place.”
This can act as a deterrent to prolific criminals, as SmartWater marked goods tend to have warning signs to put thieves off attempting to steal them.
Once police have received a delivery of SmartWater, they will be distributing it among farmers free of charge so they can mark machinery and other expensive items of farming equipment.
PCSO Suzie Carr, who has been working on the project, said a Farmers Forum had been launched in Swallowfield last year and this had made police realise the problems facing farmers in the area had been overlooked.
She said: “Farmers are generally very private people.
They do not often cry out for help and the general feeling from the forum was farmers need our help.
“They generally decide to look after themselves if anything happens. They know who is on their land and they know who shouldn’t be.
“Things have escalated and they have decided we need to be involved with them.
“The first thing I did was go around the whole of the Swallowfield and Farley Hill area and established a directory of every farmer in the area, which the parish council have also taken.
“We sent Farm Watch and Country Watch packs so we could get them all signed up and help them through community messaging.”
Sgt Matt Foskett said landowners in contact with police had identified two key problems facing them. These are fly-tipping and theft of farm machinery.
In the first quarter of this year, there have been 103 incidents of fly-tipping reported to police, however incidents tend to get worse in the summer months.
Fly-tipping not only blights the landscape, but it also costs money to clean up. Last year, the council spent £40,000 clearing fly-tipped waste from its land.
Wokingham Borough Council is also working to stamp out the crime, aiming to ultimately get cases to court to discourage others from doing the same.
The council is looking to upgrade its camera technology to make this more effective at catching people in the act.
Sgt Foskett said: “We would ask anyone who witnesses fly-tipping to tell the council.”
The theft of farm machinery will also be tackled with a national database registering all equipment and information will be shared worldwide with 187 other countries to reduce the chance of stolen goods being exported.
There will also be opportunities to fix tracking devices to expensive equipment.
Anyone concerned about fly-tipping can report it to Wokingham Direct on (0118) 974 6000.