A COTSWOLD farmer has accused the police of treating rural communities as “second class citizens” in its response to figures revealing the cost of rural crime in the county rose by 38 per cent last year.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report, published on Monday, revealed rural crime in Gloucestershire cost £1.6million in 2016 - the fourth highest in the UK.
This was a rise of £443,286 from 2015, with only Kent seeing a bigger increase.
Dom Morris, who owns a farm near Fairford, then called for Gloucestershire Police to make rural crime a priority.
In response, deputy police and crime commissioner Chris Brierley said that the figures relate to the value of claims and “do not automatically equate to similar increase in the number of crimes”.
“Having said that, we do know that crime generally is on the increase and rural policing is part of the Police and Crime Plan but one of the challenges the constabulary has is limited resources.”
This has included £30m a year being taken out of the budget since 2010, with a further £3-4m over the next three years, due to cuts from the government.
Mr Brierley said, “most crime is in our urban areas” and with only 1,000 officers, down from 1,300, at the constabulary’s disposal “policing disparate rural communities becomes more difficult with limited numbers”.
“That’s not to say nothing is being done,” he said.
“We have maintained our rural crime officers across the county and they are working with landowners and farmers to make sure they’re connected and can share intelligence whenever they see something suspicious.
“Whilst tough decisions have to be made, they do not mean less importance is placed on rural communities.”
He went on to say that the Chief Constable Rod Hansen has assured both the Commissioner Martin Surl and himself “that rural areas will have a clear neighbourhood policing offer”.
Mr Brierly said the offer will build “closer relationships with the individual communities, working with them to make their communities safer – but working together as the police alone cannot solve all the problems”.
In response to the deputy police and crime commissioner, Dom said: "The police have placed us on hold. Nothing has changed, they have not said what they will do to change the situation.
“If there was a similar rise in urban crime I think he'd [Mr Surl] be taking this more seriously. Is the police commissioner seriously saying that because we live in the countryside, we’re second class Cotswold citizens?”
In response to the constabulary’s limited resources, Dom said: “Everyone has limited resources. Families have household budgets, businesses have financial constraints and we all manage to choose how to spend that money to best effect.
“That doesn't seem to be happening with our police force.”
He also questioned why rural crime isn’t “already covered” in the “neighbourhood policing offer” mentioned by Mr Brierley.
“When will this offer be made public?”
Cllr Ray Theodoulou, deputy leader of GCC, and ward member for Fairford, said: “Martin Surl is spending over £50,000 each year on a deputy commissioner, and over £200,000 on police horses, as well as wasting time and effort on plans to take over Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service.
“All these things are great for his public relations, but do very little to address crime in rural communities – or anywhere else in Gloucestershire.
“He needs to get his priorities in order,” he added.