Farmers and police services must work together if rural crime is to be tackled effectively, according to Gloucestershire farmers.

Members of the county’s NFU have been assisting Gloucestershire Constabulary to help officers understand exactly what problems farmers are facing and improve communication with the police.

As a result the constabulary has increased the resources available in the county to tackle rural crime and the NFU has organised training sessions for police officers to provide practical training and advice, which can help in situations where perhaps a lorry-load of livestock is suspected of being stolen and has to be housed at short notice.

A recent crime ‘open day’ which gave people from rural communities the chance to hear directly from the police and find out about the latest crime-busting technology, including vehicle tracking devices, was a great success and another event is planned for June 24.

Farmers have also taken advantage of the latest technology, using groups on social media to share the latest intelligence and pass on warnings of criminal activity. They are also able to obtain discounted prices for some of the latest crime prevention equipment, including security marking and secure storage, through their NFU membership.

“We have been working hard to get on top of the issue and it is good to know the police are also taking it seriously. We particularly appreciate the extra resources that have been put into tackling rural crime,” said NFU Gloucestershire chairman Graham Nichols.

Despite these welcome steps forward, crime remains a serious problem in the county. According to the most recent figures from leading rural insurer NFU Mutual, crime cost Gloucestershire £1.6 million in 2016, a 38% rise from 2015 when the cost was £1.2 million.

There are regular sightings of suspicious vehicles and farms have recently been targeted by thieves looking for scrap metal. Criminals continue to target Land Rover Defenders, quad bikes, tractors, tools, fuel and livestock, despite increased security on farms.

“What we need to see is stricter enforcement of existing penalties and, with crimes like fly-tipping, much stiffer penalties to put people off doing it in the first place,” said Mr Nichols, who has had problems with fly-tippers on his own land.

“We are calling on all parties including local authorities, the Environment Agency and the police to make sure there is a consistent approach towards prosecuting fly-tippers. We also want to see local authorities assist landowners with the reporting and disposal of fly-tipped rubbish.”