Nearly £500,000 of suspected stolen machinery recovered in successful cross-border operation
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Officers from New Forest Neighbourhood Policing Teams and Country Watch officers, alongside Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, joined forces for a cross-border operation tackling reported organised criminality across both force areas.
On Tuesday 14 June 2022, officers from Hampshire Neighbourhood Policing team and Dorset Police Rural Crime team, executed warrants at two rural locations in East Dorset as part of Operation Hardware.
Operation Hardware was an intelligence led operation, created following a suspicious incident in Hampshire. A vehicle was reported as driving at speed along the A338. As Hampshire police officers followed, the vehicle made an abrupt turn, mounted a grass area and disappeared.
Detailed police investigations into the vehicle showed that the vehicle has been stolen from London, the number plates being used on it had been cloned from a vehicle out of county and therefore the insured driver was not the legal owner of the vehicle.
This gave reasonable grounds to execute search warrants at the home address of the insured driver.
A wide area search was conducted at two rural locations in East Dorset and several vehicles reported as stolen from Dorset and Essex were located and seized, as well as a large quantity of plant and agricultural machinery. A device, believed to be a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) making machine, was also recovered and seized.
A 21-year-old man from East Dorset was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving, theft and handling stolen goods and a 47-year-old male, also from East Dorset, was arrested on suspicion of theft and handling stolen goods.
An 82-year-old man, from East Dorset, was also arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods.
They have all been released under investigation as enquiries continue.
Police Constable Adrian Woodhead from Hampshire Constabulary said: "This cross-border operation highlights the importance, and value, of working closely together with our neighbouring Forces.
“The joint operation with Dorset Police has helped to not only recover valuable plant and farm machinery – which we’ll be working to locate their rightful owners – but has also helped to disrupt what we believe to be organised criminal activity.”
Acting Inspector Lee Turner from Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, said: “This is an example of the importance of partnership working. We are in regular contact with our partners in Hampshire Constabulary, sharing information to disrupt and detect suspected cross border criminality. Operation Hardware was an opportunity for us to come together and target a cross border suspect, known by officers in both Dorset Police and Hampshire Constabulary.
“All items we have been able to identify owners for are in the process of being returned. This includes three vehicles and plant machinery items. Owners for some of the recovered power tools have also been identified and we are currently arranging the return of these.
“We are seeking your help to find the rightful owners of other equipment recovered and ask you to please help us identify the rightful owners of this recovered property.”
A webpage has been set up on the Dorset Police website – www.dorset.police.uk/ophardware - with pictures of some of the recovered items. Anyone who has had items stolen are being asked to please look at the webpage and see if they believe any of the recovered equipment belongs to them.
If you think anything displayed could belong to you, please email Dorset Police at [email protected] - quoting reference number 55220093933.