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 Operation Cobra launched


A new police operation has been launched in the Dales to deter thieves.
Operation Cobra uses special technology called Dot Peen to engrave equipment so it is permanently marked and easily identifiable if stolen.
The first recipients of the scheme - farmer Herbert Hutchinson and his wife Kathleen – had their machinery marked this morning (September 7).
The couple, who are the fifth generation of their family to farm near Stanhope, in Weardale, had their quad bike stolen in January.
Thanks to a swift response from the community and officers, the quad was recovered but the family was keen to take part in the new operation which will now act as a further deterrent to thieves. 
It has been funded by the Weardale Area Action Partnership (AAP) in partnership with the Teesdale Area Action Partnership.
The Hutchinson’s machinery was marked during a special visit by police, councillor and chairwoman of Weardale AAP, Anita Savory, AAP coordinator Angela Maddison and Emma Spry from the Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services.
PCSO Gavin Robson and PC Craig Dowson used the Dot Peen equipment to engrave each machine which acts as a tattoo to permanently mark property.
It can be used on all property with a personalised ID for everything from computers to bikes, machinery and more.
Special signage was also placed at the entrance to their property highlighting that the machines have been marked.
Mr Hutchinson, who farms cattle and livestock, said he was pleased to be the first to have use of the free service and would encourage all Dales residents to take advantage of it.
He said: “I think it’s a jolly good idea and I’d encourage everyone to get it done.
“We use our vehicles every single day of the year so to have something that helps further protect them from thieves is only a good thing.”
It comes as figures from the National Farmers Union Mutual revealed County Durham and Darlington experienced a 23% reduction in rural crime in 2019, with rural crime costing £434,883 last year, compared to £563,248 in 2018. Across the whole of the UK last year, rural crime cost £54.3million.
Inspector for Crook, Teesdale and Weardale, Ed Turner, said: “The Dales is already a very safe place to live and work and by working in partnership with the AAPs, we have a good opportunity to make it even safer.
“I would encourage anyone who wants to take advantage of the service to get in touch with officers.”
Cllr Savory, said: “Any crime impacts on the farmer, their livelihood, workforce and community.
“The farmers work hard 365 days of the year to serve the community so anything to help them is great news.”
Mrs Maddison, added: “The Weardale and Teesdale Area Action Partnerships have come together to support the rural crime agenda and we feel that the marking of agricultural items with a unique serial number will deter thieves. 
“Supporting and funding a pragmatic solution for both AAPs, it will reduce the displacement of crime and the worry of becoming a victim of crime.”
Mrs Spry said: “Statistics show that Teesdale and Weardale are one of the safest places in the country to live in relation to crime. 
“That said we are well aware that every single crime bites hard in someone’s livelihood and causes anxiety in the community.

“Anything we can do to make it more difficult for criminals, has to be a positive move. 
“We welcome this initiative and fully support it, let’s all work together to make our area safer.”
Officers will be contacting anyone who has been a victim of burglary to offer them the free service but it is available to anyone in the Dales.
Email PCSO Robson at Stanhope at or PCSO Steven Richardson at Barnard Castle at for more information.