Farmers are pressing the Home Office to intervene over fears that government austerity cuts have left a Yorkshire police force sorely lacking the resources it needs to tackle criminal gangs targeting rural communities.
A rural South Yorkshire crime spike has been reported by the National Farmers’ Union, including shot livestock and criminals riding stolen quad bikes destroying thousands of pounds worth of crops.
Without dedicated rural policing resources in each force area supported by clear Ministerial guidance on the importance of rural policing, many farmers and growers will feel increasingly exposed to growing criminality and disregard for the law.Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers’ Union
South Yorkshire Police was given a 5.1 per cent cut to its government grant this year and has been forced into a restructure, adding to farmers’ concerns that the force is too hard-pressed to stem countryside crime.
NFU president Meurig Raymond has written to the Home Office to ask for help with “an apparent lack of police resources available to prevent and resolve crimes being committed on farms across rural South Yorkshire”. He wrote: “Without dedicated rural policing resources in each force area supported by clear Ministerial guidance on the importance of rural policing, many farmers and growers will feel increasingly exposed to growing criminality and disregard for the law. I urge you to assist them in their predicament.”
Other persistent crimes in rural South Yorkshire are sheep worrying and ‘fly grazing’, which has seen stray horses wander onto major highways. A recent case saw part of the M18 shut.
South Yorkshire Police has met farmers and the NFU to discuss the problems and Superintendent Neil Thomas admitted communications between police and farmers had broken down. But a plan is now in place to address this, he said.
Supt Thomas said: “We have probably lost our engagement with the farming community and that’s something I am now trying to reinvigorate.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said total crime - both urban and rural - has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010 and that overall police spending is being protected during this parliament - meaning an increase of around eight per cent, or up to £900m in cash terms, if Police and Crime Commissioners maximise their precept.
The spokesperson added: “We welcome the National Rural Crime Network’s work to ensure police forces respond to crime in rural areas with the same dedication as crime in urban areas, and we hope its reports will help PCCs hold their forces to account where this is not happening.”