Farming News - Cuts to policing will affect rural residents

Cuts to policing will affect rural residents

14 Nov 2011
Frontdesk / Machinery

The Countryside Alliance has said rural communities could be left behind when it comes to fighting crime. The countryside interest group claims that budget cuts to police forces will impact most severely on rural residents, resulting in a "free for all" for those who would commit crime in the countryside.


Across the UK, rural crime costs the farming industry an estimated £50 million a year, according to insurers NFU mutual, who said that rural crime rates rose 17 per cent last year. In 2010, £7.5 million worth of tractors were stolen. Already this year, fuel thefts are reported to have doubled and around £5million worth of livestock has been rustled, including 33,000 sheep.


Trespassers, thieves, poachers and those who hunt illegally, churning up land and worrying livestock, present serious problems to farmers. Seen in this light, the widespread fears that cuts to police budgets will have grave implications for rural dwellers are understandable.


By 2015 there will be an 11 per cent reduction in the numbers of police, equating to 16,000 fewer officers across Britain. The Countryside Alliance said people in rural areas will bear the brunt of the cuts; Sarah Lee, the organisation’s head of policy, said that policing at weekend in rural areas will be "non-existent."


Nick Herbert, the policing and criminal justice minister, stressed that police departments must make savings, however, he also said frontline policing, including in rural areas, should remain intact.


Chief Inspector Richard Crompton, of the Association of Chief Police Officers on Rural and Wildlife Crime, said information sharing was of paramount importance in tackling rural crime, and methods involving mobile technology, such as Farm Watch will come into their own as the effects of the cuts are felt.


He said, "Because we can’t be everywhere all the time, because of the geography of the countryside and the number of officers, we rely very much on working with people in a range of schemes, called by different names country watch, farm watch, rural watch, which enable people to be more aware of travelling criminals and those operating in their areas."


He said his own force of Linclonshire, faced budget cuts of 16 per cent, which would undoubtedly mean a reduction in staff and officers. He stressed the need for efficiency, information sharing and cooperation from rural residents in order to counteract the effects of the cuts.


Andy Timmons, of West Midlands police explained the importance of the force’s Farm Watch scheme, aimed at tackling rural crime. Forces across the country have said using the community intelligence to prevent crime in schemes such as Farm Watch has met with success in addressing the problem.


Mr Timmons said, "All the members on the farm watch scheme are linked via their mobile phones or email, if there is a sighting I can put live messages out, which gives them up to date information. It’s excellent; there are an extra hundred eyes and ears on the ground helping us out."


Police say measures such as farm watch are the future for tackling rural crime and reported sightings of suspicious behaviour have increased as awareness of such schemes rises.