A YELLOW sticker is the latest tactic being used by police in a bid to clamp down on farm machinery theft in the county.

Farmers are encouraged to apply a yellow label bearing the words ‘Police STOP ME between 20:00-05:00’ to their vehicles, trailers and horse boxes.

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

A similar initiative has been in operation with ‘cash-in-transit’ vans for many years and has successfully reduced attacks on vehicles from the security trade.

Rural crime officer PC Marc Jackson said: “This initiative is currently 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, small holders 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.”

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.”