A MACHINE gun and a huge haul of stolen goods, including lorries and caravans, were seized when police swooped on a travellers’ site in Bolton.

More than 70 officers raided the camp, off Hall Lane, Moses Gate, at 9.30am yesterday.

The sting followed weeks of intelligence gathering and formed part of an operation to crackdown on theft and burglary.

Inspector Stuart Wrudd said: “We are acutely aware that crimes such as burglary and car crime cause great distress to their victims and have a huge affect on people, causing them stress, anxiety and financial loss.

“Yesterday’s initiative was part of Operation Guardian, Greater Manchester Police’s continuing dedicated response to this sort of crime.

“I hope that the action highlights how seriously we take these crimes.”

Police did not use the usual tactics associated with raids, which involve them break down doors to homes they are targeting. Instead, they knocked and asked for permission to search the caravans.

In addition to the machine gun, police seized an air rifle, a miniature Samurai sword and machetes.

Officers also impounded two lorries, two vans, a number of quad bikes, several items of jewellery and £10,000 in cash.

Three men were arrested on suspicion of theft and one man was arrested on a warrant.

Earlier this week, police recovered four small tractors, worth more than £60,000, which were hidden in bushes near the travellers camp.

Residents at the site yesterday praised officers for not taking a heavy-handed approach.

Michael Harris, who has lived on the site for two years, said: “The police are just doing their job. They are not dragging us out of our caravans or anything like that.”

In addition to yesterday’s operation, from Monday, November 17, to Wednesday, November 26, police in Bolton made 49 arrests as part of Operation Guardian.

Officers have been supported by extra resources from the Tactical Aid Unit, the Traffic Network Section, and mounted and dog units.

Since last Monday, the teams have carried out 13 search warrants, made 60 curfew checks and visited 71 known burglary offenders in their homes.

Inspector Dave Rogerson said: “The action we have taken over the past two weeks is not about targeting particular communities, it is about targeting the minority of people within those communities who cause fear and despair and who we suspect to have been involved in criminality.”