Farmers suffer as crime hits the countryside

A RURAL crime survey has revealed a surge of organised crime has hit North Somerset, with farmers voicing concern over an apparent lack of policing.

Carried out by the National Farmers Union (NFU), the survey shows that rural crime rose by 86 per cent for the South West in 2010.

This increase has hit farmers across the district, including ones in Nailsea, with more than �215,000 worth of tractors, machinery and equipment being stolen.

The survey has also shown there is little sign of rural crime slowing as the countryside continues to prove difficult to police.

Will Lee, aged 39, from Wrington, had his quad bike, worth �3,500, stolen during lambing season, along with electrical fencing equipment.

He said: “It made my day-to-day life very hard. The criminals are definitely at an advantage out here.

“Our local policeman is brilliant but if he is not on duty it takes too long for Weston policemen to find our farms. You can’t relax out here and I’m always on edge.”

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Mr Lee said many of his friends and neighbours have also had machinery and tools stolen and feel they are at a disadvantage in rural areas.

He added: “My neighbours and I have to keep an eye out for each other, it’s the only way you can protect yourself.”

Will Howell, from the NFU, said: “It’s harder because this crime is happening in isolated areas and criminals find it easier to pick off items.”

Through the survey, 41 per cent of NFU branches said the main reason thieves target rural areas is because such isolated areas are difficult to police.

Earlier this year, the Nailsea police team launched a Farm Watch scheme aimed at tackling the crime referred to in the survey.

It works to help farmers guard against theft, increase the recovery of stolen property and strengthen relationships in the rural community.

It has already proved successful, with information about criminal activity being exchanged between the farming community and police.

A Horse Watch scheme, aimed at preventing the theft of equipment and horses from stableyards across North Somerset, also sees crime prevention advice given out and information about incidents being shared.

To find out more about both schemes talk to PCSOs Michelle Barrett and Andrew Gatenby at Nailsea Police Station by calling 0845 456 7000.