NORTH YORKSHIRE police officers are sharpening their countryside skills to ward off any rise in sheep rustling over the festive period.
So far 12 officers in Hambleton and four in Craven have been put through specialist training to better equip them to deal with what is a persistent rural crime.
An estimated 13,000 animals worth a total of £1.2m were stolen from Yorkshire and the North East in the last year, according to insurer NFU Mutual.
Before Christmas, the police force is teaming up with farmers to give more officers training in sheep identification techniques such as using electronic ear tags and recognising fleece markings.
Basic sheep handling skills, including how and why sheep move at certain times of the year, are also covered, as well as what questions officers should ask anyone that they stop with sheep in transit.
The scheme, organised by the National Farmers’ Union, has led to network of farmers being set up so that farmers can offer assistance to officers at the roadside if they need extra support, while auction marts in Leyburn and Skipton are offering emergency housing for sheep when animals are seized by police.
Chief Inspector Nick Hunter, rural crime lead at North Yorkshire Police, said: “This pioneering training scheme sends a strong message to criminals who prey on our rural communities.”