FARM Watch, the region’s rural crime prevention service, is not working.
That’s the view of one farmer as North Wales Police issue a warning following a spate of thefts in the county.
It comes after a report of 95 sheep being stolen from the Llanelidan area of Ruthin earlier this month.
Llanbedr DC farmer Huw Williams, a Denbighshire county councillor, says Farm Watch has deteriorated since changes were introduced to it last September.
“It’s not working,” he said.
“There’s been a breakdown in communication.
“Before we had 200 farmers in the Vale of Clwyd who signed up to Farm Watch and were having text messages on their mobile phones with alerts while they were out in the fields.
“The odd alert comes through OWL (Online Watch Link) but it seems to be a week late.
“People were more vigilant when they were getting the texts through.”
Last week Cllr Williams met with Winston Roddick, the police and crime commissioner for North Wales to discuss rural crime.
“I’m more confident now that the commissioner will improve things,” he said.
“He said he is in the process of setting up a rural team to monitor rural areas.
“What we’ve said to the commissioner is not many farmers have iPads out in the fields with them so it’s not going to work sending them emails but they can look at their phone whilst they’re in their tractors if they get texts.”
But North Wales Police District Inspector Siobhan Edwards said Farm Watch continues to be an “extremely useful tool” and urged more people to sign up to the scheme.
“Just last week, an alert was sent out via the Farm Watch system and OWL following the suspected theft of sheep and lambs from the Ruthin area,” she said.
“As a result, many local farmers checked their fields and surrounding areas and a number of the animals were found. This again proves the value of such a system.”
She added: “In March PCSO Jenny Studley was appointed as the local Farm Liaison Officer for the area.
“PCSO Studley is a single point of contact for farmers. She regularly attends marts in the area, engages with members of the community and is also on hand to give crime prevention advice in a bid to help reduce crime that impacts on our communities.”
“We are committed to making all our communities a safer place.”
This week police in south Denbighshire called on residents to ensure they keep all their sheds and outbuildings secure.
It followed thefts of items such as power tools, quad bikes, metal and bicycles.
“The majority of the incidents have happened at rural properties and therefore we are urging residents to not only keep their sheds and outbuildings locked but also to regularly check the buildings,” said Inspector Siobhan Edwards.
“We believe that the incidents which have happened in the Dolwen, Betws yn Rhos, Trefriw, areas are linked and that the incidents that have happened in the St Asaph, Trefnant, Denbigh, Corwen, Llangollen, Llanarmon-yn-Ial, Llanferres, Llandyrnog and Llanelidan areas are connected separately.”
Police inquiries into the incidents are on-going.
President of the Farmers Union of Wales Emyr Jones, who has a farm near Bala, agreed rural crime was a problem.
“The thefts of farm quad bikes have been on the increase,” he said.
“Diesel is stolen from farms too and livestock. We do feel not enough has been done to help us look after the animals and things we own.”
He added: “I hope that the commissioner in North Wales will improve things. He had a meeting with the Farmers Union of Wales about a month ago and we
conveyed our feelings about rural Wales to him.”
New figures from NFU Mutual, which insures over 70per cent of Welsh farmers, show that the value of tractor claims increased by 28per cent in the three months to the end of March compared with the corresponding period last year.
"The agri-crime wave is not restricted to tractors - in recent months thefts of quad bikes have also shot up," said Tim Price, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist.
North Wales Police have offered some advice to keep items secure:
Ensure that your shed is locked using a heavy duty pad lock.
Make sure your shed / outbuilding is in good condition with any damaged area replaced or repaired.
Property marking – ensure valuable property is security marked with your postcode. Make a note of serial numbers.
Garden tools - If possible, loop a strong chain through the handles and connect the ends to a strong padlock. If possible, fix a large metal eyelet to part of the shed frame and loop the chain through it.
Pathways – Gravel pathways make it almost impossible for a thief to walk through the garden to your shed quietly.
Lighting – Install lights which come on when it gets dark or fit motion/ sensor lights that activate when someone passes.