A FARMER has accused the office of the Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner of being "more concerned about protecting the police, than our communities" as part of an ongoing dispute over rural crime.
Dom Morris called for more support from police in August after figures revealed the cost of rural crime in the county had risen by 38 per cent last year.
At the time he said rural communities were being treated as “second class citizens” after rural insurer NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report, 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, who owns a farm near Fairford, clashed with deputy police and crime commissioner Chris Brierley who responded by saying that the figures relate to the value of claims and “do not automatically equate to similar increase in the number of crimes”.
The row was ignited again last week when Dom was unhappy about Mr Brierley's latest comments about crime figures as a whole in Gloucestershire.
Dom said he is concerned that the PCC office has ‘gone native’ in suggestions that rural crime is low.
‘Trying to deny our community’s legitimate concerns about rural crime seems to me to be precisely the opposite of what a PCC is there to do…isn’t he supposed to represent our concerns and help the police to address them? It feels as if the Police Commissioner is more concerned about protecting the police than protecting our communities.
Asked about the PCC’s use of statistics in an attempt to allay community fears about rural crime, Dom said: “Lies, damn lies and statistics – we’re all taught early on in school that when you use figures then you should reference them and show where they are from, perhaps the Police Commissioner should do the same.
"But that’s what happens when you hire a former BBC journalist as your Deputy Commissioner and spin doctor.
"Ask anyone in the Cotswolds about rural crime and you will get the same answer. It is getting worse. Most of the farmers around us have had a truck stolen or their forklift put through a cash machine.
"The PCC himself says that he has ‘challenged his new Chief Constable to find a new approach’. If he is so sure that rural crime isn’t a problem why is he demanding a new approach? I am sure this is why our Geoffrey Clifton Brown, our local MP, has asked to meet the new Chief Constable."
In response, PCC Martin Surl defended his deputy's comments, reaffirming that the area was among the safest to live in country, but that he wasn't blind to the problems being faced by the police.
“My deputy is not a spin doctor, nor was he dismissing legitimate concerns about all crime which are raised in weekly meetings with the Chief Constable and in between when the need arises. He was merely stating that despite a worrying increase in crime, rural Gloucestershire - and the Cotswolds in particular – are among the safest places in the country.
“The statistics which bear this out, and to which Mr. Morris refers, are official figures supplied by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). They focus on crimes that the British Crime Surveys says cause the most amount of harm to communities, which was made clear in the press release issued by my office.
“Representing the public does not make me blind to the problems facing the police who are faced with tackling an ever increasing workload with diminishing resources. The inevitable result is that resources are deployed where they are most needed.
“I hope this is a message Mr. Clifton Brown will take back to the Government after his meeting with the Chief Constable.”
Last month, PCC Martin Surl called on the deputy leader of Gloucestershire County Council to stop “scaremongering” after he slammed policing in the Cotswolds as “woefully inadequate”.
Mr Surl said Cllr Ray Theodoulou’s remarks are “damaging public confidence in the police” and are “not backed up by the facts”.
Cllr Theodoulou, who represents Fairford and Lechlade, said: “A number of residents in my ward have raised serious concerns about the levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in our rural areas and market towns."