A POLICE chief has called on residents to protect their property from thieves before ‘they bleed us dry’, after more than £170,000 of equipment was snatched from rural properties in less than two months.
The north and west of the county have become a major target for criminals, with 28 incidents of stolen goods since early June.
In what Alnwick Neighbourhood Inspector Sue Peart has branded a ‘very serious’ spate, rural locations in the Alnwick, Morpeth and Berwick sectors, as well as the West and East Tynedale policing areas, have all been targeted.
On Monday, thieves raided Whittle Farm Cottages, at Southmoor, Shilbottle, swiping more than £10,000 of property.
They took a green and silver Mitsubishi L200 pick-up – registration number SK55 VTM – a red Honda Foreman quad bike and tools, at around 3pm, and the stolen vehicle was seen in convoy with a white Ford Transit van.
Alnwick Neighbourhood Inspector Sue Peart said: “We have now got to start taking this extremely seriously. We have got to get together on this one and drive these people out of our area. They are not going to stop. They are taking way too much money off us.
“We have got to work together to stop them coming to the area. If we don’t wake up to this they will absolutely bleed us dry.”
Since June 4, the Alnwick area, which includes Rothbury and Coquetdale, and villages like Embleton and Felton, has been the subject of 11 thefts from rural properties, while Berwick, which incorporates Wooler, Belford and Seahouses, has seen a further eight.
The Morpeth sector, which includes Hadston and Widdrington, has been targeted six times while West and East Tynedale have been hit by an additional three thefts.
To combat the spate, which has seen goods such as equine equipment, 4x4s and quad bikes being taken, police are stepping up patrols and are urging residents to make life difficult for the thieves.
In a Farm Watch alert from the police after the Shilbottle theft earlier this week, Katrina Cassidy, Northumberland Local Intelligence Officer, said: “Be aware that thieves are targeting our area during the day and night, and appear to have reasonable knowledge of the premises they have targeted.
“Can I remind you that you should not leave your car, tractor, quad or other vehicle keys in the vehicle even if you are only leaving them unattended briefly. Thieves will seize every opportunity to relieve you of your property.”
Police are visiting farmers, landowners and rural residents and during the visits, which are carried out by patrols during the day and overnight, officers are checking property and giving the owners crime prevention advice and tips on how to deter thieves.
Police are also stopping any suspicious vehicles on the roads in rural areas overnight – checking who is on the roads, what they are carrying and gathering intelligence.
DCI Peter Reeve said: “I’d urge all farmers, landowners and those living in rural parts of Northumberland to help us by locking doors, vehicles and not leaving valuables out on show. People should report any suspicious behaviour, vehicles or people immediately and we’ll investigate.
“A number our arrests have come from rural residents picking up the phone and sharing information about what’s going on in their community and we need this to continue.”
Last month, farmer Richard Green told the Gazette how he and other landowners were effectively under siege from gangs of travelling criminals following raids at his farm and others.
Anyone with information about the thefts should contact police on 03456 043043.