UK's first police officer specialising in livestock theft announced

Martin Beck, an ex-Devon and Cornwall rural police officer, has 30 years of experience in the field
Martin Beck, an ex-Devon and Cornwall rural police officer, has 30 years of experience in the field

The UK's first police officer who specialises in livestock theft has been announced, as the latest figures show the crime has cost farmers £2.7 million.

Martin Beck, who has 30 years of policing experience in rural areas, has been named as the first UK-wide livestock theft prevention officer.

The new role involves gathering livestock theft-related intelligence across the UK, though a new initiative code named Operation Foldyard.

It will gather and share information on new theft trends and work with local police forces to build cases and help secure convictions.

Funding provided by NFU Mutual has enabled the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) to recruit Mr Beck.

His appointment comes as the toll from livestock theft reached an estimated £2.7 million in 2022, according to the latest figures from NFU Mutual.

However, for many police officers, livestock theft is outside their crime-fighting experience.

Mr Beck said that, as part of the role, he would be working with police forces across the country to help them understand the crime.

“From my new base at the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU), I will be working to ensure information is shared between the police forces and their key partners," Mr Beck, who worked for Devon and Cornwall Police, said.

“To help coordinate activity, the NRCU is introducing Operation Foldyard, which will share intelligence between police forces and partners including in the farming industry.

“As the intelligence picture grows, I expect to see individuals involved in livestock theft targeted and disrupted."

Farmers are regularly seeing both small and large numbers of thefts across the country, police forces have regularly warned.

The crime causes suffering to animals which are often treated badly by thieves and sometimes even slaughtered out in the fields.

Livestock theft is also a cause of food crime and can present a risk to public health as the quality and safety of stolen meat products cannot be guaranteed.

Mr Beck said the crime "needs to be exposed for the harm it is causing", and that the people involved are "criminals".

He added: “While larger thefts can be high value and devastating for that farmer’s business, finding one or two of their flock butchered in their fields can be just as distressing.”