Rural communities are being urged to stay vigilant following a wave of incidents in which sheep or lambs have been illegally butchered in fields.
Since 1st January 80 sheep or lambs have been butchered across the county, while 29 others have been reported stolen from farms in Warwickshire.
Such incidents have been reported near Gaydon, Henley, Dorsington, Bishopton/Pathlow and Wootton Wawen, as well as at other locations further afield.
Similar crimes have been reported in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, and officers are linking in with border forces as part of the investigation.
Carol Cotterill, Rural Crime Officer at Warwickshire Police said: “Theft and illegal butchery of sheep is a serious offence, which causes suffering to the animals some of which were in lamb or with lambs at foot, and financial repercussions to farmers.
“Enquiries are currently ongoing into the incidents and we would urge anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or has any information that could help to please come forward.”
Police believe offenders may visit the areas beforehand in daylight to plan their crimes and are more likely to strike on clear nights, particularly when the moon is fuller for better visibility.
They often choose secluded locations close to main roads and park a vehicle where they cannot be seen.
Livestock owners or those that live near fields with livestock in are urged to stay vigilant and report any concerns to police, such as if you spot suspicious vehicles.
Other advice includes grazing livestock away from roads if possible, reviewing weak points in fields in remote locations, padlocking field gates, consider checking sheep on clear nights and joining the Rural Watch scheme.
Setting up a Whatsapp group with neighbours to share information, grazing sheep with other animals and discussing crime prevention methods with the rural crime adviser are also recommended.
Ms Cotteril added: “If you suspect someone has attempted to target your animals, or find that you’ve lost livestock in this way, please report it to police immediately.”
“Members of the public should also be mindful of being offered meat for sale in suspicious circumstances.”
George Bostock, NFU Warwickshire assistant country adviser, said: “The illegal slaughter of animals is abhorrent and we would urge anyone with information to get in touch with the police.
“Rural crime has a serious emotional impact on farming families as well as the disruption and financial burden it brings.
“Midlands’ livestock farmers rear animals to exceptionally high welfare standards and all of our members care about their stock; to witness this at home, during lambing season, is absolutely appalling.
“Shoppers should always look out for the Red Tractor logo and other assurance marks on the food they buy as it guarantees food quality, safety and standards.
“The NFU will continue to work with Government, police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners to work towards solutions that allow farmers, who already feel isolated and vulnerable, to be better protected.”
Police are pleased to confirm that there have been some positive results – with the arrest on 16 April of a man who had a dead sheep in his car and thanks to the vigilance of farmers and the public, several reports where offenders have been disturbed.
Warwickshire Police is urging the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity by calling 101.
Information can also be emailed to northwarksruralAlerts@warwickshire.pnn.police.uk in confidence or via Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111 or via their website.
For further advice on rural crime, please see here: www.warwickshire.police.uk/RuralCrime