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Police urge locals: 'if you see anything suspicious, call in'






Neighbourhood officers revealed a spiralling cost to the public purse at a press conference held at a Great Shefford industrial estate which has suffered its share of attention from countryside criminals.
Their key message was: If you see anything suspicious, call it in.
It was driven home by the owner of equestrian and shooting suppliers Woodlands Enterprises on the Northfield Farm Industrial Estate, Billy Morris, who revealed: “There isn’t a single land owner, business or farmer in this area that hasn’t been a victim.”
But he claimed police were making real inroads into the problem and urged the public to report any suspicious activity.
PC Claire Drewitt outlined the most common rural crimes in West Berkshire - hare coursing, deer poaching and theft of diesel and machinery.
Mr Morris spoke of the wider cost to West Berkshire, and said: “Insurance goes up, which is then passed on to the consumer.
“Local poaching has increased five-fold in recent years. And on this estate alone there have been four attempted break-ins and one successful one in the past three years. Businesses here have invested in padlocks but the thieves use bolt cutters. That’s why my shop is boarded up and the farmers have dug ditches in nearby fields to prevent access.”
Insp Warren McKeown from Newbury police station said rural crime was now a top priority in West Berkshire and said: “I believe we are making a difference.”
Thames Valley Police has invested in four 4x4 vehicles to police the Ridgeway - which he described as “the local motorway for rural criminals” - and ‘diesel dipping’ kits.
The latter show officers if a suspect is using stolen ‘red diesel’ in their vehicle.
Under a new ‘zero tolerance’ policy, suspect vehicles will be gone over with a tooth comb and Insp McKeown said: “Even if we don’t catch someone red-handed we will go over their vehicle. If the tyre tread is wrong, we’ll fine them. If the water reservoir is empty, we’ll fine them. If the vehicle has too many defects, we’ll impound it. This is intelligence driven, so we’re not targetting innocent members of the public.”
Insp McKeown described the policy as the “Al Capone approach” - a reference to the way police finally jailed the notorious American gangster by trawling through his tax returns.
He encouraged residents, landowners and businesses to subscribe to a new online facility - Thames Valley Police Countrywatch at www.thamesvalleycountrywatch.co.uk
Insp McKeown added: “Also, our control room staff now know that rural crime is a top priority for the force. If anyone sees someone walking with dogs and they have suspicions, call it in. We’ll investigate. It may be innocent or it may not but we would rather look into it.”
Thames Valley Police can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101.
Alternatively the Crimestoppers chairty can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.



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