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Knutsford farmers praise rural crime-busters
FARMERS in the Knutsford area have praised the work of the town’s Rural Watch policing scheme after its work resulted in eight men being found guilty of stealing more than £2 million worth of farm machinery.
The gang – who were sentenced earlier this year – had targeted farmers across the area during a 12-month period, during which there had been 94 plant machinery thefts.
Farmers who had been a victim of the gang met at Knutsford Civic Centre on February 12, where PC Mike Dawber and the Rural Watch scheme showed them a presentation highlighting the work involved.
PC Dawber began the operation into the gang by scouring hours of CCTV coverage after noticing more than 100 crimes of plant machinery had been left unsolved.
After teaming up with detectives, PC Dawber and the team worked for more than a year to catch the individuals.
PC Dawber said there were two ringleaders of the group, Mark Adrian Anstee, 41, from Wigan and Michael Francis Owens, 36, from Wythenshawe.
During his sentencing of two of the men – Anstee was given 52 months in prison and Owens received 36 months – Judge Lowcock described their criminality as ‘a large-scale commercial enterprise, carefully planned’.
PC Dawber added: “The rural watch scheme has become a valuable tool in combating and detecting rural crime offences. There’s 77 square kilometres of rural area in Knutsford, the members keep an eye out on the area for us and it has really assisted us.”
Millington farmer Jake Ryan told the Guardian: “Since the scheme started I have a pad and a pen to hand, and if a car looks iffy I’ll make a note or ring Mike up. I’ll also take a picture as well.
“It has stopped a lot of crime. If you look after your neighbour, they will look after you.”
Anthony Houghton, who owns a farm on Fanners Lane, High Legh, had a tractor, quad bike and a 4x4 stolen over a 12-month period.
“Since we had the thefts the police have woken up to rural crime and have been excellent,” he said.
“When we’ve rang about strange vehicles they’ve been here in 15 minutes or earlier.”
Congratulate PC Dawber on the Rural Watch scheme at knutsfordguardian.co.uk or on our Facebook page