Community Schemes




It’s cold, it’s dark, and there’s a long day ahead the next morning attending to livestock and preparing the land for another year’s harvest.

So why do so many farmers and volunteers choose to stay up all night?

Farm Watch, that’s why. It’s Durham Constabulary’s on-going initiative aimed at tackling rural crime around County Durham and Darlington – and it’s working.

Farm Watch began in 1989 and has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the most successful of its kind in the UK, having acquired over 800 volunteers from across the rural community including farmers, gamekeepers and residents.

Farm Watch is aimed at reducing crime and strengthening community spirit within small hamlets and villages, giving the farming community a sense of fellowship and resolve.

The latest operation is no different, held at Barnard Castle Police Station in the wee hours. Community volunteers descend on the small building, along with neighbourhood police officers – all know each other by first name and greet each other, despite the late hour.

This isn’t TV’s Aidensfield and it isn’t Heartbeat but, you wouldn’t know the difference. You would expect local bobby Nick Berry to turn up at the briefing next, such is the camaraderie between police and volunteers.

The local sergeant talks about the tactics and aims of the operation following weeks of preparation and the analysis of key intelligence.

Volunteers are quickly paired off with one another and given radios to keep in contact, should they spot anything suspicious; they know how the operation works and it runs like clockwork.

They set off in convoy accompanied by their police officer comrades, armed with nothing but a torch and a hot flask. But they leave no stone unturned, patrolling farmland to detect and deter opportunist crooks. This is, quite literally, community policing.

The volunteers act as eyes and ears on the ground, notifying police officers of any suspicious people, or vehicles, loitering on farm land. If anything is sighted nearby, units swoop in and question the individuals.

All in all, the night remained quiet. But that’s how the community wants it; it shows that the police are doing their job and that Farm Watch works.

The evening’s events led to over 50 vehicles being stopped by police and one man being arrested thanks to the help of the eagle eyed volunteers. The night of action involved 160 volunteers and police staff from Durham, Cumbria and North Yorkshire covering 1500 square miles.

For more information about the scheme or if you would like to get involved contact the local police team on the non-emergency number 101.