WILTSHIRE Police, as part of the Wiltshire Rural Crime Partnership, are launching ‘Police stop me’ stickers in a new initiative to help tackle farm machinery theft.

Stickers with ‘Police STOP ME between 20:00 – 05:00’ are now available for our rural communities to apply to their agricultural vehicles, trailers and horse boxes.

The idea being if the machinery is seen on the roads between those hours by officers who are not already committed to a call, they can stop check the vehicle to ensure it is being used by the rightful owner.

The stickers are based on a similar initiative with ‘cash-in-transit’ vans which has been in operation for many years.

It has been proven to successfully reduce attacks by criminals on security trade vehicles.

Rural Crime Officer PC Marc Jackson said: “This initiative is being used by other police forces around the UK and is a small but effective tool in the fight against rural crime.

“Anything we can do to work with our communities to help disrupt and prevent rural crime is something we are keen to promote.

"Stickers won’t necessarily stop a theft, but they do raise awareness to other members of the public and police officers in regards to farm machinery thefts.

"This can include quad bikes, ATVs, 4x4 vehicles and as well as vintage tractors.

“We are also asking farmers, smallholders and horse owners to ensure that their agricultural vehicles are adequately protected and stored securely.

"We often find that vehicles are stolen whilst being used, with the keys left in the vehicle when the owner is checking livestock or working around the farm yard.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) representative for Wiltshire, Andi Witcombe, said: “Without doubt, rural crime is one of the most pressing, impactful and devastating issues farmers are dealing with at the moment.

“We have seen some great examples around the country of police forces getting on the front foot with rural policing and the NFU in Wiltshire welcomes the POLICE STOP ME initiative.

“We are pleased to give our support for this initiative and we encourage all farmers to take part.

“The fact that over two-thirds of farmers and rural businesses have been victims of crime in the past 12 months shows that appropriate action needs to be taken to ensure farmers can do what they do best – producing safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation.”

Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “Due to the nature of the businesses in our rural areas they often have a lot of expensive farm machinery and equipment kept on site which can make them a target for thieves.

"I welcome this simple new initiative as one of the many ways Wiltshire Police’s Rural Crime Team are helping to tackle machinery theft in the county.

“This is an issue that has a significant and far reaching impact, both financially and emotionally, on businesses owners.

"Wiltshire Police is fully committed to continuing to work with our rural communities to tackle rural crime however we can.”

If you would like more information on the ‘Police stop me’ stickers then please speak to your local Community Policing Team.