CUMBRIA Police have launched a campaign to crackdown on sheep and cattle thefts.

Since 2010, livestock worth £413,530 has been reported stolen from the county’s farms – £368,761 of this relating to sheep thefts.

Now officers are enlisting the help of the community to combat rustling.

In a campaign launched on Monday, Cumbria Police and community support officers began asking residents in rural communities to report suspicious behaviour so they can concentrate resources and make life difficult for thieves.

The campaign began in South Lakeland on Tuesday when PCSO Mandy Coleman talked to farmers and handed out leaflets at Kendal’s J36 Rural Auction Centre.

She said: “It is important that we all work together to make things difficult for criminals who target rural communities. There are so many ways in which people can report suspicious activities.

“I encourage people to come and speak to me and I can give them advice about the ways we are able to help one another.”

Meanwhile, police investigating a Swaledale sheep rustling operation in Cumbria and County Durham are hoping to return nearly three dozen seized animals to their rightful owners.

An investigation by both forces into organised sheep theft has so far seen six people arrested and 150 sheep recovered from Teesdale.

Durham Police have arranged a viewing day tomorrow between 10am and noon at H&H Auction Mart in Kirkby Stephen for farmers who have lost Swaledale sheep to examine the seized animals, which are all ewes.

The announcement comes as Cumbria Police this week launched an awareness-raising campaign to tackle rural crime by urging residents in rural communities to report suspicious behaviour.

Over recent weeks, a number of sheep have been positively identified as stolen by their owners, with a number of others being classed as ‘doubtful origin’.

The most recent action saw police recover two sheep after searching moors south of the A66 last Friday.

The sheep that will be present at the auction mart are thought to have been stolen from hill farms across the north Pennines, mainly in the Eden Valley and Teesdale.

The thefts are thought to have cost farmers thousands of pounds, with each animal worth between £100 and £150.