A dedicated scheme aimed at helping to cut rural crime and protect farming communities has been launched in Derbyshire.
Farm Watch is a pioneering project that quickly spreads crime prevention advice, witness appeals and information to anyone signed up to it.
Texts, emails and voice messages can be sent to hundreds of people at a time, pinpointed to a specific area.
This means that if a suspicious vehicle, for example, is spotted near a farm and reported to police, every Farm Watch member in that area will be warned to be on the lookout and double-check the security of their property.
The free service, which launched today (Monday) is being led by police and partners including Derbyshire Dales and High Peak local authorities, Derbyshire County Council and the NFU.
Superintendent Graham McLaughlin, from Derbyshire Constabulary, said: “The whole point of Farm Watch is to protect our rural communities by sharing information as quickly as possible.
“Farmers and remote properties are often targeted by criminals but we can help to put a stop to that by getting early warning messages and advice out to people in an instant.
Members of the public can sign up to Farm Watch at Bakewell Agricultural Business Centre today where a tractor liveried in police colours will be on show.
The tractor – which has been loaned to the scheme free of charge by New Holland – will be used as a draw at events such as markets and shows over the summer.
Between October last year and March this year, thieves targeted farms across the county and made off with a huge range of items, from livestock to fuel.
Crimes included the theft of a tractor, numerous quad bikes, muck spreaders, generators and six incidents of sheep rustling.
Andrew Critchlow, the NFU’s Derbyshire advisor, added: “Theft from farms is not only very disruptive to the business but is also expensive indirectly as there is no such thing as a free lunch – all insurance claims ultimately lead to higher premiums which end up costing every farmer.
Benefits members of Farm Watch will get access to include:
A text, email or voicemail alert service;
Practical crime prevention advice to farmers and landowners, to help ensure their property and goods are as secure as possible;
A property marking scheme to make it harder for thieves to dispose of stolen goods;
A dedicated page at www.derbyshire.police.uk where members can get the most up-to-date information and advice about rural crime;
Warning signs for your gates and property so criminals will know your property is protected;
Periodic prize draws for Farm Watch members, where you can win crime prevention bundles.
Councillor Anthony McKeown, executive member for community services at High Peak Borough Council, said: “To better tackle rural crime, we need a strong partnership with our farming communities and Farm Watch is a great idea to develop that partnership.
To sign up to Farm Watch, visit www.derbyshirealert.co.uk and fill in the simple registration form, ensuring you tick the ‘Farm Watch’ box.
Crime should not be reported via Farm Watch but instead by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
For more information and to request extra items such as warning signs for your property, call your local Safer Neighbourhood Team on 101.