The police’s national head of rural crime has admitted forces have been struggling to answer the phone as law-breaking in the countryside skyrocketed.
Dave Jones, who represents all the chief constables in the UK, made the comments at the launch of a new NFU report which revealed serious failings in the way police treat rural crime, despite it costing farmers £42.5 million a year.
More than 1,000 rural police stations closed between 2000 and 2012 as farmers and their families became victims of arson, vandalism and burglary. Many others reported experiencing fear, intimidation and threats of violence.
Though Mr Jones promised to have a commitment to bear down on rural crime signed off by the chief constables’ council next year, he said he had to be ‘honest’ about the situation the police were currently facing.
“The police service faces many challenges and there are stresses and strains in the system”, he added.
“One of the stresses is the fact we are struggling to answer the phone, which is not a good place to be in.
“There are issues around 101 [the number for reporting crime] and funding and we are struggling to prioritise our resources in how we deal with this issue without producing a postcode lottery.”
The NFU has called on the Home Office to ensure fair funding for rural policing and more cash for research on rural crime and its links to organised criminal networks as part of its report.
Despite the police service’s money problems, Mr Jones did say ‘good partnership’ in dealing with rural crime makes a huge difference and encouraged people to share best practice and be proactive.
One such proactive scheme is the Lancashire Livestock Initiative, which was set up by farmer John Taylor after his friend’s sheep were stolen.
The initiative teaches police which questions to ask when stopping livestock containers, allows recovered livestock to be kept at auction marts for 48 hours while investigations continue and sees police give stolen sheep tags which mark them as evidence in the same way as other property.
Mr Taylor said: “We have got to be proactive and do something. The best thing you can do is report crimes. No matter how small a crime is, if a farmer does not report it, he does not create a statistic.
“If you do not create a statistic, the powers that be say ‘you have not got a problem’, but we have got a problem. If we have not got a statistic, we will not get the funding we need.”