FARMERS in the South West are calling on police to dedicate more resources to tackling rural crimes.
The calls came from the South West NFU after a survey revealed almost 20 per cent of members who responded had difficulty reporting a crime and that when they did, insufficient action was taken.
The crime survey was completed by 200 members and showed that fly-tipping, trespass, poaching and theft are the four most common offences that farmers have to deal with.
It also revealed that the average cost to a farmer of each crime reported was nearly £3,000, with the total cost of the crimes covered by the survey coming to just under £247,000.
Melanie Squires, South West NFU regional director, said: “I know this is one of the most frustrating issues faced by farmers, but it is very important that everyone who experiences a crime reports it, so police forces have an accurate record of how much crime is taking place and whereabouts it is.
"This will help demonstrate the scale of the problem and will support us when it comes to arguing for more police resources to be allocated to rural areas.”
In terms of the police response to crime, 29 per cent of farmers said officers had taken sufficient action, though 21 per cent felt they had not.
More than half the respondents said they felt that insufficient resources were dedicated to fighting rural crime in their county.
The results of the survey echo the findings of NFU Mutual, which revealed that rural crime cost the South West £6.1m in 2015, with thieves commonly targeting tools from farms and businesses, quad bikes (ATVs) and garden equipment.
Avon and Somerset Police rural crime team recently made a number of high profile investigations, including tracking down five pregnant ewes in Pilning and 40 calves near Radstock.
The rural crime team is currently trialling a three-month text service to help prevent and detect crime by encouraging communities and businesses to be their “eyes and ears.”
Following the Radstock thefts, Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Rural crime affects the livelihoods of farmers, smallholders and rural businesses and presents some real challenges for the wider rural areas.
“I know the rural crime team, working closely with our local communities are committed to tackling and preventing crime. I know from speaking to residents and farmers that there is a real desire to engage with the police when it comes to tackling rural crime.
"I’m sure that by providing an appropriate way for our rural communities to contact the police with intelligence will make a real difference to ensuring our countryside is safe and feels safe.”
For more information on the rural crime team, email RuralCrimeTeam@avonandsomerset.pnn.police.uk.