Largest rural policing op in UK returns

14 Sep 2017 12:00 PM

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The largest rural policing operation in the country has returned for its 15th strike last night in Northumberland.

Operation checkpoint, which targets criminals operating on the roads, brings together almost 100 officers from forces across Northumbria, Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire and North Yorkshire.

In Northumberland, the six hour operation, which concluded this morning at 4am, stopped 19 vehicles in total, carrying out searches on three of them. As a result, officers seized a quantity of class B drugs, one vehicle was seized as the driver had no insurance and one arrest was made of a 41 year old man for driving under the influence of alcohol. 

Police intelligence shows that organised crime groups from across the north of England are involved in thefts, burglaries, and handling stolen property, targeting rural areas in particular. These criminals use their extensive knowledge of the road networks across the region in an attempt to avoid detection.

Op Checkpoint targets these vehicles with suspected criminal links by deploying officers and volunteers and using the latest tools such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology.

Superintendent Andy Huddleston said: "This year, the Op used drone technology alongside thermal imaging spotters to track down suspicious vehicles. 

"But what really makes the operation a success is the volunteers with their local knowledge who come on board. Last night we had 18 volunteers including local gamekeepers, Forestry Commission and private landowners acting as our eyes and ears. They're equipped with police radios and when they spot anything suspicious, they flag it up to one of our officers. It's a great way to get the community and partners involved while also using their expertise of the area.

"Criminals may see rural areas as easy targets and I want to assure them they are anything but. Operations like this enable us to gather intelligence about travelling criminals and ultimately, bring them to justice.  Yesterday we stationed a highly visible policing presence in some of the known poaching hotspots, as we hope to boost community confidence that we are here to protect property while farmers are out on their land. 

"If you come to Northumbria to commit rural crime we will target you and used all methods at our disposal to hit back. We're proud that Northumberland is one of the safest places in the country to live and work and Op Checkpoint exists to make sure it continues to be."