Labour has announced it will establish a rural crime strategy after warning that farmers and others were being hit by 'organised crime, rural theft and antisocial behaviour'.

The party made the announcement this week, pledging to 'protect' countryside communities and to 'stamp out' crime and disorder in those areas.

The strategy would see a rise in rural police patrols, tougher measures to fight antisocial behaviour and stronger laws to prevent on-farm crimes and fly-tipping.

According to Labour-commissioned research, rural crime has increased by 32% since 2011 compared to 24% for urban areas.

READ MORE | UK police forces and farmers took part in the survey

Farming groups have frequently warned that rural communities do not feel adequately protected against criminals and organised crime gangs.

Theft of large and small machinery, fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock and hare coursing continue to blight farming communities.

As a result, rural crime cost the UK £49.5 million in 2022, according to the latest figures by NFU Mutual.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said today: “Our countryside towns and villages are part of our national identity, but also home to millions.

"My Labour party knows the challenges they face, including crime rates surging faster than in urban areas, with organised crime, rural theft and antisocial behaviour blighting communities.

“As chief prosecutor I got to know all corners of our country, and committed to delivering justice for people in all communities.

"With my changed Labour Party, Britain’s rural communities will be protected with the first ever government-backed rural crime strategy.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said it 'warmly welcomes' Labour's strategy pledge as it was "needed to protect people, communities and businesses".

"Criminals are often emboldened by the isolation of rural communities," explained CLA president, Victoria Vyvyan.

"As a result, rural crime is anything but petty, and it often comes with the explicit threat of violence from thugs linked to organised criminal gangs.

"Expensive machinery is being stolen and moved abroad, hare-coursing is being live-streamed for illegal international betting markets, even crimes many thought of as being a thing of the past - such as sheep rustling - are increasingly common.

"The first place to start must surely be ending the chronic underfunding of rural police forces."