POLICE have launched a scheme to tackle rural crime in the South Lakes.

Operation Stroke will focus police activity in key rural areas and encourage rural communities to join the fight against crime.

It comes as statistics show there is an increase in burglary from farm buildings and theft of farm machinery and vehicles, theft of metal and fuel, and in some cases livestock.

Sergeant John Stephens of the Neighbourhood Policing Team at Kendal said: "Rural crime, particularly in the Kirkby Lonsdale and Sedbergh areas, is on the increase.

"Although the actual figures remain relatively low, the impact and fear of crime are often magnified by the feeling of isolation and helplessness.

"Operation Stroke will ensure police activity is intelligence led, targeting the road network and criminals and their vehicles known to be active in rural crime.”

"Geography and a sparse population work against us in the fight against rural crime. We need to fill this gap by ensuring everyone plays their part.

"We all have responsibility to look after and secure our own property and simple measures such as removing keys from vehicles when unattended and reporting suspicious activity, at the time, can help."

Kendal Police are currently training Police Volunteers to use Cumbria Community Messaging and Farm Watch, which send out messages about crime and crime prevention to members.

Anybody interested in joining Farm Watch is asked to contact Cumbria Police on 101 and ask for Kendal Police or visit www.cumbriacommunitymessaging.co.uk.