A NEW police scheme is being launched in Darwen in a bid to stamp out rural crime.

Farmers and communities in Edgworth, Turton, Tockholes, Belmont, Hoddlesden and Belthorn areas are being urged to join Farm Watch, from January 24.

The scheme, which runs in other locations across the county, is to help police officers to share information with farmers, stable owners and other country businesses who are otherwise hard to reach because of their working conditions.

It will help officers alert farmers to any suspicious behaviour or recent crimes via either email or telephone, so that they can take the necessary precautions to keep their land and property safe.

PCSO Nick Gisicz, who is coordinating the scheme, said: “Farm Watch will help form closer working links with farmers and communities in rural areas and hopefully improve their confidence and allow us to share far more information in the future.”

He added: “Nationally, there has been a marked increase in rural crime but fortunately, here in Lancashire, any increases in rural crime have been small and overall crime levels across the county are still low.

“However, any increase will clearly cause concern, particularly amongst communities who feel isolated like rural communities, which is why we are determined to take action.

“The most common type of offences in our rural communities include fuel and scrap metal theft as well as theft of agricultural machinery and offences like poaching and hare coursing.

“Our intention is to offer advice and reassurance to our rural communities to help prevent crime, to work with local communities to detect crime and of course, to target offenders and send a clear message to them that their behavior is not acceptable and will most likely result in arrest. ”

Farmers will be encouraged to inform police of sightings of suspicious vehicles, concern of stock, poachers or other unusual activity and this information will then be passed on to others involved in the scheme.

Anyone who wishes to join the scheme can contact the neighbourhood policing team on 01254 222135.