Organised crime gangs are carrying out crime in the Wiltshire countryside to help fuel the drugs trade.
The National Rural Crime Network has commissioned research into the link between rural crimes and OCGs and have found preliminary evidence suggesting that these rural crimes are funding other criminal activity such as drug trade.
These crimes being committed in rural areas include burglary, theft of farm vehicles, poaching and hare coursing.
Wiltshire Police has launched a new initiative which will work across counties in the South West region to tackle gangs operating in rural areas.
Operation Ragwort aims to tackle OCGs that are targeting rural communities and bring together all police forces in the region to combat this kind of crime.
Police and Crime Commissioners across the region are leading this campaign which aims to give each police force a better understanding of the levels and types of crimes being committed. This will then allow the police to disrupt these gangs more effectively.
The aim of the operation is to make Wiltshire safer for rural residents.
Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “We need to further build our capability to tackle those OCGs engaged in acquisitive rural crime, not only in Wiltshire but regionally and nationally and that is why there is a real need to create a new collaboration called Operation Ragwort.
“Operation Ragwort will be an intelligence, evidence and data-led south-west Regional collaboration to robustly tackle rural and heritage acquisitive, and other rural crimes, where information will be collated, analysed and shared with the National Rural Crime Unit.
“I want to help build the capacity of police forces across the south of England - not just in the south-west - in order to better understand the networking of these organised criminal groups so that we can engage more proactively in enforcement, interdiction and disruption operations when the intelligence and evidence allows.”
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Cooper who is leading the operation said: “As rural crimes are often underreported we seek to increase public engagement and encourage reporting across the region and build the intelligence picture.
“Our rural communities must feel empowered, recognised and confident in the Police who are working with them and with partners to make the countryside safe and welcoming for residents and visitors alike.”