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A new policing initiative using riders has been introduced on Exmoor in an effort to reduce rural crime.

Rural Community Watch” (RCW) was launched on 7 March, encouraging volunteers to report any crimes they witness whilst exercising their horses.

“The volunteers have no police powers whatsoever,” said Avon and Somerset’s PC Nick Wood.

“They have the same powers given under common law [but] they are merely my eyes and ears to assist me in community areas.”

The RCW volunteers are given basic training as to what constitutes being a good witness and how to record information.

With the help of local resident and British Horse Society (BHS) instructor Mary-Anne Ghazala the police compiled twelve criteria to test the volunteers.

These include the condition and temperament of the horse, the competency of the rider on roads and moorland and the equipment and tack used.

Riders also have to be level one security vetted and sign part of the Offical Secrets Act.

Volunteers are easily identifiable to the public, wearing a fluorescent tabard with an RCW logo and carrying a police volunteer identity card.

PC Wood added: “The initiative has been very well received by local residents and I am hopeful that other parts of the force area will look to form similar groups in rural areas.”

The scheme is an alternative to mounted special constables, appealing to people who don’t want to wear an official police uniform or don’t have the time to commit to law training.