A CRACKDOWN on criminals who target rural areas has been launched this week.

North Yorkshire Police's Rural Taskforce, the largest unit dedicated to tackling rural crime in England, has sent out the message that criminals will not be welcome as part of a national campaign alongside neighbourhood policing teams and mobile rural watch schemes.

Tackling rural crime was given high priority, following a consultation that highlighted public concern.

A week-long series of events have been taking place and follow on from a rural crime day of action in 2018.

The crackdown got under way on Sunday with a major police operation spanning the North of England as part of Operation Checkpoint.

It comes after reports that 35 quad bikes have been stolen from the Craven area so far this year.

The forces involved in Checkpoint share intelligence and information and patrol across force boundaries to target criminals, disrupting their use of the road network in rural areas and bringing anyone found breaking the law to justice.

Police tactics included the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to locate vehicles suspected of being connected to crime, as well as targeting vehicles seen in suspicious circumstances.

Sunday also saw North Yorkshire Police mark National Badger Day with the publication of a newsletter and social media activity to raise awareness of badger persecution.

The initiative to tackle rural crime has been reinforced with the setting up of a volunteer rural watch scheme with the first group of volunteers trained and already in action in the Grassington area.

The group of around 16 volunteers have been going for around two months and provide a valuable service with local knowledge.

Another group is being set up in North Craven covering Settle, Ingleton, and surrounding areas.

A meeting was due to take place on Tuesday to offer information to those interested in joining.

Sergeant Paul Evans, based in Skipton, said the volunteers provided a valuable service.

"They have local knowledge and know when they see something unusual or suspicious to contact us so we can investigate and intervene.

Volunteers use their own vehicles, and are equipped with police radios so they can communicate with officers.

"We have held a session where we stopped cars around the Grassington, Kilnsey, Kettlewell and Barden areas just to make checks. All proved sound until the last one which was in the early hours and was a car from Bradford. We are checking their explanation they were on a ride out.

"Virtually everyone who was stopped and checked said they were glad it was happening and understood why."

The force says this sort of approach, as well as preventative measures such as visiting farms and offering advice, is valuable to fighting rural crime and is being rolled out to include police forces in Cumbria and Lancashire.

On Sunday across Cleveland, Northumbria and North Yorkshire, around 100 vehicles were stopped and checked to ensure they were in order, and there were more than 40 reassurance visits to farms.

Throughout the week, officers will be patrolling and conducting proactive operations in rural North Yorkshire, including Operation Galileo – an operation to disrupt illegal poaching, such as hare coursing. There is typically an increase in poaching offences in October, after crops have been harvested, and fields are left empty and open.

Operation Harvester sees volunteers operate mobile rural watches across the North Yorkshire countryside. Volunteers use their own vehicles, and are equipped with police radios so they can communicate with officers.

In addition, police will be working alongside partner agencies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Angling Trust to keep North Yorkshire’s countryside and wildlife protected.