DOZENS of vehicles were stopped and checked, and several suspects arrested last night, as part of the biggest rural crime operation in the country.

Police officers and PCSOs from the North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria forces worked alongside volunteer watch teams for Operation Checkpoint.

In North Yorkshire, four vehicles were seized by police, four suspects were arrested, and a number of people found in suspicious circumstances were dispersed from the county.

Officers in North Yorkshire were supported by more than 50 mobile rural watch volunteers.

Operation Checkpoint first ran in January 2014, and remains the largest operation of its kind in the country.

The forces involved share intelligence and information and patrol across force boundaries to target criminals, disrupting their use of the road network in rural areas and bringing anyone found breaking the law to justice.

During Checkpoint deployments – the latest of which ran from yesterday evening into the early hours of today – police use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to locate vehicles suspected of being connected to crime, and target vehicles seen in suspicious circumstances.

In North Yorkshire, the operation involved officers and PCSOs from the force’s Neighbourhood Policing Teams, Rural Taskforce and Roads Policing Group, alongside 54 Mobile Rural Watch volunteers covering North Craven, Upper Wharfedale, Richmond, Richmondshire, Bedale, Easingwold and Thirsk. Throughout the night, 26 vehicles were stopped and checked in rural areas.

They included police receiving a report of a man shining a torch at barn in a remote, rural area near Skipton at 8.50pm.

The caller passed a description to officers.

At 10.30pm, a Renault Megane failed to stop for police in Carleton. It crashed a short time later in Cononley, ending up on its roof.

Two suspects ran away, but the driver, a 17-year-old youth, was detained and taken to hospital for treatment.

The car was recovered for forensic examination. Enquiries are ongoing.

Inspector Matthew Hagen, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “Once again, our high-visibility presence and patrols as part of Operation Checkpoint have sent a strong message to criminals who use road networks to who target rural areas: their illegal activity will not be tolerated.

“Checkpoint also lets us build on our good relationships with neighbouring forces, allowing us to share resources and information to clamp down on criminals, wherever they are from and wherever they are going.

“The support we get from residents in rural areas continues to be fantastic, in particular our Mobile Rural Watch volunteers.

"I can’t praise their dedication enough. They give up their own time to work alongside the police, and help protect their communities from harm – making a huge contribution to the fight against rural crime.

“Our proactive work will continue, keeping our rural communities safe, and making it extremely difficult for criminals.”

Mobile Rural Watches operate across the North Yorkshire countryside, supporting the force’s Neighbourhood Policing Teams and Rural Taskforce.

Volunteers use their own vehicles, and are equipped with police radios so they can communicate with officers.

By drawing on the expert local knowledge of the volunteers, any suspicious activity or vehicles can be checked out in real time.

To find out more about Rural Watch schemes elsewhere in North Yorkshire, contact your local Neighbourhood Policing Team, or Rural Taskforce officer, by dialling 101.