Farm groups highlight growth in rural theft
Union officials and farmers met last week to discuss theft which totaled an estimated £52.7 million in 2011 which was up 6 percent, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual.
Most of the crimes involve the theft of metal, diesel, livestock, farm vehicles and tools.
NFU President Ed Bailey said farmers were worried over 'stretched police resources'.
"Sadly, over the past decade rural crime has increased to such a level that it is now accepted as a fact of life for people living and working in the countryside" he said.
"North Wales' newly-elected police and crime commissioner may choose to focus on problems in more heavily populated urban areas, however we were encouraged to hear him say that this would not be the case and that he also understood farmer’s concerns about night time police cover with 74 per cent of rural crime believed to occur during hours of darkness."
"To operate effectively the police are dependent on information and getting that information promptly and this is why the NFU fully supports the On-line Watch Scheme (OWL)."
"However we have two pleas on this issue, to seek better mobile network coverage in rural areas and that the information on the message is as detailed and specific as possible."
Farming groups also called on Commissioners to strengthen their position through the reinstatement of a dedicated full-time farm police officer to combat growing rural crime.
Bailey said: "As I mentioned above communication is vital and we need someone to engage with rural businesses and communities on a regular basis, pro-actively patrol farms and rural spaces to provide reassurance and prevent offences, working to reduce rural problems such as fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour, gathering intelligence and targeting identified rural crime hot spots only then will we see this stark crime figures reduced."
"He or she would be working with Community Beat Managers in Rural areas with their local knowledge."
A growth in livestock theft has also been reported. According to the West Glamorgan Commoners' Association, seven of its members have lost 350 sheep over the past 18 months.
Losses have totaled £30,000 for the members of the association which prompted the Farmers' Union of Wales to remind livestock farmers to 'remain vigilant'.
"Unfortunately, livestock theft seems to have increased substantially in recent years and in August last year I had 62 ewes stolen from my flock" said third generation farmer Howell Davies.
"It is believed that the rising price of sheep meat and the impact of the recession are largely to blame for the increase."
"Of course, it is not just farm income that suffers from these thefts, as there can also be a loss of valuable breeding lines which are very difficult, if not impossible, to replace."
FUW livestock, wool and marts committee chairman Dafydd Roberts said the union was one of the organisations involved in the establishment of the 2011 Farm Watch scheme which aims to improve communications between farmers and the police in order to reduce the opportunities for farm-related crime.
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