A police boss has spoken out to dispel the myth that all livestock rustlers raiding North Wales come from outside the region.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones believes that in many cases the culprits can be found closer to home – within the rural community itself.
According to Mr Jones, it’s clear the rustlers know what they’re doing when it comes to handling sheep and cattle
The commissioner, who was brought up on a farm near Harlech, is urging rural dwellers to report any suspicious behaviour they see in the countryside.
Mr Jones was speaking during a visit to the mart in Dolgellau when the pioneering Rural Crime Team from North Wales met with their recently-established counterparts from the Dyfed-Powys force to celebrate forming a new partnership with them.
At the launch it was revealed that drones are now being used as a high-tech weapon to combat rural crime.
The news came as a new survey revealed that public confidence in the efforts of the North Wales team was riding high.
A poll conducted on Twitter revealed that 77 per cent of the people who responded felt that having a full-time designated Rural Crime Team increased public confidence in the police’s effectiveness to tackle offences in our countryside and farming communities.
The ground-breaking North Wales team was established in 2013 and their success has attracted interest from across the UK and farther afield.
Among the visitors has been a senior officer from the Australian state of Victoria, Superintendent Craig Gillard, who wanted to replicate their ideas Down Under.
Now the Dyfed-Powys force has decided to follow suit and set up its own team of rural crime busters.
PC Dewi Evans, who has been a member of the North Wales team from the outset, said: “Things are going very well. We are to all intents and purposes going to be the same team as Dyfed Powys Police’s rural crime team, and we’ll all be working closely together.
“We’ve had some big successes, but there are still crimes happening of course and we’re all working hard with each other and with farmers.
“In a way the team is bigger than just the officers because it includes the people that live in the countryside and farmers and we’re all working with each other to get a grip on the problems that there are in the countryside.”
It was a view supported by the North Wales commissioner, Arfon Jones, who said: “The people who steal livestock are not from Birmingham or Manchester, they are often from within the rural community itself.
“They know how to herd sheep together in the middle of the night and where to sell them.
“These people are not very far away from home, they are in the community or people connected in some way to agriculture.
“I think very often people in rural communities have a pretty good idea who the thieves are and where they go.
“They need to have the confidence to give this information to the police. They to pass on their suspicions to the rural crime officers so they can follow up on that information.”
The partnership with the new team in Dyfed-Powys was a hugely positive step.
Mr Jones added: “We have a big border between the two forces and that border is the countryside and this partnership will help us to be more effective in the fight against rural crime.
“The poll which showed that 77 per cent of the public who voted have faith in the rural crime team shows they are very close to the community.”
Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn was grateful his new team was able to tap into the experience and expertise of the North Wales operation.
He said: “We have seen the success of the North Wales team and the value of putting in specific resources to target crimes that happen in rural areas.
“Through this partnership we want to build on that success and as a result three-quarters of the land mass of Wales now has dedicated team responding to rural crime.”
Huw Jones, he county officer for the Farmers’ Union of Wales in Meirionethshire, applauded the new partnership.
He said: “Since the rural crime team was established a few years ago we do now feel there is a much stronger connection with the police.
“It gives confidence to people in rural communities that the police care about them.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Iestyn Pritchard, the National Farmers’ Union’s county adviser in Merionethshire, Mid-Gwynedd and Anglesey.
He said: “There are no borders when it comes to rural crime so it’s good to see this new partnership come to fruition.”