Operation Recovery saw officers from Northumbria Police target thieves operating in the county by working more closely with local residents to gather intelligence.
The initiative, which started in summer 2014, was conceived when it became apparent that criminals were travelling into rural Northumberland to steal vehicles and other farm equipment from largely isolated areas.
Reported incidents of burglary and thefts at farm premises had increased and this was having a detrimental effect on farmers’ way of life because they rely on farm vehicles and machinery to support their livelihoods.
Conventional police methods, such as CCTV, or general witness appeals were of little help in such sparsely populated areas, so the police response had to be updated to reflect this.
Residents were looking for greater reassurance that the police were doing something and officers wanted to tap into residents’ local knowledge and encourage a two-way flow of information.
Operation Recovery was a co-ordinated approach to targeting thieves, which put local people at the heart of police activity.
Crime victims were offered support and residents were encouraged to report if they saw any suspicious people and vehicles in out of the way locations or at odd hours.
Any reported sighting of a suspicious vehicle triggered a call from a police sergeant who would immediately ring the caller back to develop the information provided. This was then circulated to all rural staff, vehicle checks made and intelligence briefings updated.
When all police checks had been completed the original caller was contacted again and kept fully informed of the situation.
Police also targeted patrols in areas identified as being most in need and rural areas were visited and given crime prevention advice to improve security.
The police also used covert operations to obtain information about criminal activity.
This operation resulted in arrests and the recovery of stolen property, with two men charged with 70 separate offences committed in Northumbria and two neighbouring force areas between January and July 2014.
“Effective communication was key to identifying offenders, gathering intelligence and evidence,” says Superintendent Mick Paterson. “Equally important was keeping victims of crime and other local residents up-to-date with police activity.”
The operation, which was supported by the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird QC, has reassured residents that if they report information to police it is speedily acted upon, increasing community confidence.
It has led to an ongoing improved relationship with rural communities, which is a valuable asset to officers who are determined to continue the work.
People are now more inclined to ring into the police with information about suspicious activity.
Police are also getting help from other partners, including council staff, Forestry Commission workers and others who work on a daily basis in rural Northumberland.
The spate of offences has stopped, but police are still encouraging people to sign up for community messaging services, such as crime alerts and Farm Watch bulletins.
Officers are also regularly tapping into intelligence held by neighbouring forces, sharing information about travelling criminals and those people they need to target.
This knowledge is being used to send police resources to patrol areas where their presence will have the most impact.
“Officers need to ensure the tactics used continue to effectively solve the problem in hand,” says Superintendent Paterson.
“Communities and their needs evolve over time and the policing methods used must reflect this and grow accordingly.
“This case reminds us that a fresh approach may be needed and we cannot simply rely on tried and tested methods.”
Identifying the problem
Criminals travelling into Northumberland targeted farms and outbuildings stealing vehicles and other equipment in largely isolated areas. This caused real hardship to farming communities who were worried by these crimes and could not work without their equipment.
Residents needed greater reassurance about police action taken; officers needed to better tap into residents’ local knowledge.
Working closely with the community, police set up Operation Recovery. Officers have improved confidence in the police, made arrests and prevented other offences.
Reported burglary and thefts increased to farm premises, adversely affecting rural communities. Residents relied on farm vehicles and machinery to support their livelihoods and such crimes were having a detrimental effect on their way of life and reduced public confidence in the police.
Residents felt they were not being kept fully informed about the investigation and police needed to improve their communication with residents and encourage a two-way flow of information.
Effective communication was key to identifying offenders, gathering intelligence and evidence and equally importantly, keeping victims of crime and other local residents up to date with police activity.
Legislation changes - Existing
Officers utilised current legislation to apprehend offenders.
Operation Recovery, supported by the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, is a co-ordinated approach targeting thieves operating in rural Northumberland and has led to arrests and property recovery. It supports crime victims and encourages residents to quickly report seeing suspicious people and vehicles. Police target patrols in areas most needed and visit rural areas giving crime prevention advice.
Officers work with partners, neighbouring forces and local residents.
Sightings of suspicious vehicles are reported, triggering a swift response. A sergeant is allocated to take command and immediately ring the caller to develop the information provided; this is circulated to all rural staff. It is fully investigated with vehicle checks made and intelligence briefings updated. When police actions are complete the caller is contacted and kept fully informed.
Residents are aware and reassured that when they report information to police it is speedily acted on, increasing community confidence.
The ongoing improved relationship with the community is a valuable asset officers are determined to continue to work on and improve.
Police encourage people to sign up for ‘community messaging’ – including crime prevention Farmwatch bulletins and ‘crime alerts’.
Residents also respond to officers with any sightings of suspicious activity.
This spate of offences has now been stopped. The police action and close working relationship with support from communities resulted in two men being charged with 70 separate offences in rural parts of Northumbria and two other neighbouring force areas, between January and July in 2014. We are currently awaiting the outcome at court.
Equally importantly officers have worked closely with the community and this has led to improved confidence in policing.
Officers need to ensure the tactics used continue to effectively solve the problem in hand. Communities and their needs evolve over time and the policing methods used must reflect this and grow accordingly. This case reminds us that a fresh approach may be needed and we cannot simply rely on tried and trusted methods.