VILLAGERS and police are stepping up efforts to tackle poaching after an increase in illegal pike fishing in Turton.

The rural and poacher watch scheme has been launched in Edgworth and Turton after a number of burglaries and poaching incidents at the area’s reservoirs.

Cllr Jean Rigby and Cllr Colin Rigby, who both represent North Turton with Tockholes, have helped develop the scheme and the group held its first meeting earlier this month.

Cllr Jean Rigby said the group was formed after poachers were spotted taking fish from Wayoh Reservoir.

She said: “There has been poaching in the reservoir where people have been taking pike to eat. It is illegal to take the fish out.

“There was also an incident where a rifle was fired and people were drinking. We also decided to form the Watch because one property was burgled very recently.”

Cllr Rigby said options for funding of CCTV and other crime prevention methods were being explored. Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw is backing rural watches.

He said: “I know the devastating impact poaching and rural crime can have on people's livelihoods in Lancashire, and it is something I am committed to addressing.

“I want those living and working in our rural communities to feel safe and secure, and to be able live without fear of the impact crime could have on their businesses.”

As well as conducting high visibility patrols, the police are sending anti-poaching warning letters to criminals to deter them.

Ass Ch Con Mark Bates, of Lancashire Police, said: “Our community can have confidence that we remain completely focused on continuing to get nearer to our rural communities, listening to their key issues and being visible in showing that we are addressing them and making a difference.

“That is our absolute commitment.”

Anyone interested in getting involved in poacher and rural watch scheme in Edgworth and Turton can call Cllr Jean and Cllr Colin Rigby on 01204 853199 or call Jude Harrison, from Blackburn with Darwen Council, on 01254 222128.