Armed police are getting set to patrol the countryside around Whitburn in response to damage to farms.
The move is being taken after a rise in the number of complaints of land and crops being damaged in the area in recent times in the area between Whitburn and South Shields.
Police believe the damage is being caused out by those taking part in lamping - the night-time shooting of animals with the aid of strong spotlights - and hunting.
Officers from the Neighbourhood Policing team have carried out a number of patrols in a bid to catch and gather evidence against those responsible.
Now, to help them further they have called on the support the force’s firearms unit to patrol the area.
The move was announced during a recent meeting of the East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum.
Neighbourhood sergeant Julie Beattie said the force are keen to let residents know the reason why the firearms unit, if they are spotted, are in the area.
Sergeant Beattie said: “There has been a rise in Whitburn or land and crops being damaged by people, we believe, are lamping and hunting on the land.
“We have done some work in the area and have some intelligence and we are doing some more digging into that.
“But we have also called in the support of our firearms support unit to support us.”
She added: “People will see firearms officers in the area. They are there because we are asking them to support us.
“They drive bigger vehicles than us, but they do the same job as us.
“I wanted to let you all know as I don’t want people to be frightened if they see them in the area.
“They are a police resource and we use them where we can.”
The move has been supported by Marsden and Whitburn councillor, Coun Tracey Dixon .
She said: “I have been made aware of what is happening and I am fully in support to what the police are doing to help protect our community and the farming community.”
Northumbria Police run a Farmwatch scheme in rural areas, designed to alert people in the farming community to any criminal or suspicious activity.
It is also where crime prevention advice and appeals for information are made.
For information on Farmwatch or to sign up to the scheme contact the area’s local policing team on 101.