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Police launch night patrols as blitz on rural crime starts
POLICE have carried out night patrols in Oxfordshire to tackle the growing problem of countryside crime.
In Operation Ranger, the first initiative of its kind in the county, officers patrolled West Oxfordshire and Cherwell district council areas overnight to tackle criminals preying on vulnerable rural businesses and homes.
At 9pm last Wednesday 20 officers gathered at the force’s Kidlington headquarters ahead of the biggest rural crime operation the county has seen.
West Oxfordshire neighbourhood inspector Louise Roddy began her briefing by telling officers they would be out until 5am looking for suspicious vehicles and activity in crime hotspots.
She said: “We need to do everything we can to gather information.”
She also told officers to watch out for hare coursing and poachers as the recent harvest has left fields open and free of crops.
The operation was part of Thames Valley Police’s 100 days of action, which pledges to fight rural crime.
It came as Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld made rural crime a top priority for the force, following his election in November last year.
Last month the Oxford Mail reported criminals had stolen more than £1.4m worth of farm equipment in Oxfordshire over the last three years.
Among officers taking part were PCs Simon England and John Newman, who conducted their searches in a 4x4 police vehicle.
Out on patrol, the first activity of the night came as officers checked a black van parked by the roadside in Kiddington, near Woodstock.
Later officers pulled over a Citroen van on the A44, near the Pear Tree Interchange, but again nothing was found.
A search around Eynsham’s Oakfield Industrial Estate to check for scrap metal thieves followed, and when officers heard an alarm sounding they checked the area for any signs of a break-in.
Shortly after midnight, officers stopped a white Renault van in Bladon before checking a 4x4 Toyota left by the roadside, but again nothing suspicious was found.
Elsewhere, three men and a woman were arrested on suspicion of possessing class A drugs with intent to supply after a car was stopped in Finstock. A fifth man was arrested on suspicion of theft.
In Thursday night’s operation a vehicle was identified in Swinford as possibly being used to look for hare coursing, but police were unable to trace it.
A West Oxfordshire gamekeeper, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, joined the Operation Ranger patrols. He said he felt vulnerable to crime at night, adding: “You are always on edge. Every time you hear a vehicle you have to go out to see who it is.”
He welcomed the patrols, adding: “If people get to realise that the police are around some of this crime will not happen.”
Officers also handed out advice at crime prevention roadshows last week at garden centres.
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