A new rural crime-fighting group has been launched to outwit criminals targeting a West Yorkshire farming community.
After repeated raids on farms in the Worth Valley, locals have set up a ‘Fields of Vision’ scheme to share live information about suspicious activity.
An initial 75 rural residents and businesses have signed up to the messaging service via smartphone app WhatsApp, in a link up with West Yorkshire Police.
The force awarded a grant of almost £5,000 from its safer community fund generated from the proceeds of crime to Worth Valley Young Farmers’ Club, which is co-ordinating the project.
Andrew Wood, one of the club’s leaders, said the scheme was now in operation across Oakworth, Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope.
“We have a real mixture of people who have signed up so far, some farmers, young farmers and people who have been victims - local people and businesses.”
To attract attention to the scheme ahead of the launch, a photoshoot featuring members of the farming community was held at a local farm. But just a short time later a quad bike used as a prop in the photoshoot, as well as other farming equipment worth £10,000 was stolen.
Mr Wood said: “Hopefully if we can stop just one per cent of these things from happening it’s someone who is not going to have that distress of being targeted.
“The police do their best with what they have got. It’s such a big area and they have limited resources. The whole point of this scheme is to work with the police as well as we can and be their eyes and ears.
“I just think people have had enough and this is something that costs nothing to be a part of but which might just make a difference.”
Mr Wood said that if the club could prove the scheme worked, that other communities would adopt the idea too.
Rural crime cost the Yorkshire economy a total of £3.5m annually, according to the latest figures from insurer NFU Mutual.