* Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, Winston Roddick,
with Sergeant Rob Taylor.
A special police taskforce is turning the tide of rural crime in North Wales - and "setting a benchmark" for the UK.
The dedicated team was set up six months ago by North Wales Police at the request of Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick and it has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of countryside offences.
These include such diverse offences as livestock rustling, theft of farm machinery, badger digging and stealing rare birds eggs.
Since the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team was introduced the number of rural incidents has been recorded on a daily basis.
After peaking in October at 116, they have been dropping steadily with 72 in January, a fall of nearly 40 per cent.
Winston Roddick said: “During my campaign for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner I visited livestock markets and met farmers and members of the rural communities and without exception they pointed to how much crime was taking place in the countryside.
“These offences ran into millions of pounds and this reinforced the view expressed to me that we should dedicate more resources to combating rural crime.
“Even though the countryside is sparsely populated it contributes an enormous amount to the Welsh economy so it is entitled to effective policing and when I took that to the Chief Constable it was accepted immediately and acted upon immediately.
"Since then the Rural Crime Team has made an excellent start and they are setting a benchmark for the rest of the UK. Their work is attracting a great deal of interest from other forces.”
The team is headed by Sergeant Rob Taylor who has four full-time police constables distributed across North Wales and they are supported by a network of PCSOs and special constables.
Natural Resources Wales are partnering North Wales Police in the venture and it has been warmly welcomed by the rural community including the farming unions.
Sergeant Taylor said: “There wasn’t a dedicated crime team for the countryside although many years ago there used to be a farm liaison officer and a lot of farmers told me they regretted the loss of the position.
“But now we have a task force and the results speak for themselves and we have had very positive feedback nationally so that we are seen as a benchmark of best practice and have had other forces from England and Wales showing interest in what we do.
“We have a number of offences being dealt with by the courts including a string of stolen quad bikes, one of which we traced to Bolton and the theft of pheasant feeders near Bangor and we’re currently investigating badger baiting offences in the Holywell area while we also work with the RSPCA on cruelty cases.
“We use intelligence-led policing and make use of data which we analyse so that we put resources where they’re needed and when they’re needed.”
FUW Meirionnydd county executive officer Huw Jones said: “Investment in tackling rural crime is a great boost for the farming economy and has enhanced the safety of rural and isolated communities.
“Winston Roddick has consulted closely with the farming community and with us in the FUW, and we appreciate the close liaison.
“He has attended livestock markets such as Dolgellau on several occasions, attended FUW meetings and he has listened carefully to our views and taken our concerns on board.
“We congratulate Mr Roddick and his team on their successful strategy to tackle rural crime in North Wales and are hopeful that they will carry on keeping our rural communities safe.”
Sgt Taylor added: “The drop is encouraging, however these are very early days and there is still a lot of hard work ahead for the team and our partner agencies.
“This isn’t a solo effort and we rely so much on our farming unions for their support and also our colleagues at the NRW for their invaluable assistance.
“We have hit the ground running with the new team and we still have a long way to go, however we have a detailed structure and a plan to work to and we are optimistic that this will pay off and reduce crime in our rural communities and increase public confidence.”
North Wales Police’s Rural Crime Team officers can be contacted via the North Wales Police system by dialling 101 or by e-mailing direct to the team Ruralcrimeteam@north-wales.