Lawn arm of the law! £100k worth of stolen garden tools found in Harlow lock-up

POLICE are looking to reunite a final few stolen items with their rightful owners after they were stolen during a series of burglaries in north-west Essex earlier this year.

Seventy-nine items of stolen property were returned to their rightful owners at a two-day event held by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s North Herts Local Crime Unit and Safer Neighbourhood Teams over the weekend (November 16 and November 17).

Held on both days during the morning at Hyde Hall Farm in Buntingford, the event saw over 20 members of the public from Hertfordshire, Cambridge and Essex reunited with stolen gardening equipment, bikes and tools.

The events were arranged as part of Operation Arctic – a drive created in response to a series of burglaries that took place in rural areas of North Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex between April and early November.

In Essex, crimes took place in the Saffron Walden area including Ashdon and Radwinter.

Following police investigations into the crime series, over 270 items including tools, push bikes, diving equipment, fishing tackle and gardening equipment – such as leaf blowers, strimmers, lawnmowers and chainsaws – were discovered stashed in two lock up garages in Harlow. The estimated worth of all the stolen goods is in the region of £100,000.

A 37-year-old man from Harlow, a 23-year-old man from Whiteleaf, a 46-year-old man from Surrey and a 25-year-old woman from Bournemouth were arrested in early November in connection with these incidents and are currently on police bail pending further enquiries.

As part of this work, police officers and volunteers from Hertfordshire Constabulary – working alongside officers from Essex and Cambridgeshire – proactively contacted members of the public who had experienced burglaries in affected areas and invited them to attend the event to see if they could identify their stolen items.

They were asked to make a note of any distinguishing marks and scratches and bring along any log, instruction books or serial numbers to help officers to identify the stolen item(s) which belonged to them.

Over 200 items were left over after the event and still need to be identified and retrieved by their rightful owners. If you live in the affected areas and you have had any bicycles, tools, trailers, fishing tackle, gardening, equestrian or scuba diving equipment stolen between April – November, please contact DC Jeanette Walker on 101.

North Herts Local Crime Unit DI Amanda Bell, who has been leading on Operation Arctic, said: “Our teams started working on Operation Arctic as soon as the burglary series in rural areas of North Herts and East Herts began to emerge. This has included stepping up targeted patrols in affected areas, working with Scenes of Crime Officers and Crime Prevention personnel, together with neighbouring forces who were also experiencing similar offences.

“After on-going intelligence work, we were delighted to discover this huge amount of stolen items and have the chance to return them directly to their rightful owners. However, there are still many items yet to be claimed, therefore if you experienced a burglary from, April to November, you live in one of the affected rural areas and you think there is a chance your stolen item could be amongst those we seized, please get in contact with us as soon as possible.”

The remaining stolen items will be available to view via Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Facebook page in the next few days.

Officers from the Safer Neighbourhood Team were also on hand at the events to hand out crime prevention advice leaflets and speak to members of the community about crimes that typically affect rural areas of the county, such as theft of heavy plant machinery, heating oil and red diesel. People also had the chance to get their saddles and equestrian tack marked.

In order to increase the chances of your tools, gardening equipment, bikes or other valuables being returned to you in the event of them being recovered by police after they have been lost or stolen, register them on www.immobilise.com. It is a free database where people can list their valuables and it can also serve as a deterrent to would be thieves who won’t want to be caught carrying property that is easily identified as not belonging to them.
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