WILTSHIRE Police's rural crime team has been revamped to help protect isolated communities around the county.

The change has been made possible by the precept increase and extra central funding acquired by PCC Angus Macpherson earlier this year.

Crimes relating to agriculture, wildlife, heritage and the environment will be focused on and the force hopes this will increase confidence and encourage reporting through preventing crime and carrying out more intelligence-led operations.

Made up of one sergeant, three constables and 35 community policing team officers who work as wildlife and heritage crime officers, the team will be operating across the county. An inspector will act as a tactical lead in addition to members of the special constabulary who will be used on pre-planned operations.

Mr Macpherson said: “I discussed rural crime in the county with the chief constable and the assistant chief constable, with responsibility for community policing, at a meeting at the end of July.

“We live in a predominantly rural county so the policing service must be tailored to the needs of our diverse communities. While it is crucial to prevent violent crime, there is a specific need to protect rural communities from the distinct threats they face.

“With the uplift in policing numbers being achieved by the precept increase and additional central funding, I am pleased that additional resource can be used to combat rural crime in Wiltshire and Swindon. As officers leave training over the coming years, I expect the team will be added to further.

“In my Police and Crime Plan, I promised to protect rural communities. The introduction of additional dedicated officers to the team will allow the Force to run extra operations, take geographical responsibility of areas to gain further intelligence, and reassure our communities that we are committed to tackling rural crime.

"We will also continue to engage with our rural communities and our partners with a vested interest in tackling rural crime directly through the Rural Crime Partnership. This allows us to keep our finger on the pulse regarding the challenges they are facing and work together to tackle them."

Chief constable Kier Pritchard said: "We have made some significant advances in the way in which we police rural crime in recent years, however, criminals are becoming more organised and determined, and are using more sophisticated technology, so there is always more that can be done.

“The introduction of the new dedicated rural crime officers to the team will help us immensely in our ability to run projects and focus on prevention alongside our partners.

"As well as the extra officers, the team will also be provided with extra intelligence support to allow for intelligence-led policing in relation to prevention, detecting criminal activity and proactive operations.

“We will continue to improve and adapt as necessary, but I know the team is determined to make Wiltshire a county that criminals fear and think twice about before entering."

Report all rural crimes via 101 - or 999 if a crime is in progress.