Freya Morgan, vice-chair NFU Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, told the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel held last night (Tuesday, April 5) that some rural communities are using private security patrols.
She said: "In Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire there is a private group, who a lot of us subscribe to, who cover our rural areas at night because we’re not getting that coverage from the police.
"And it’s not just farmers, it’s people in small villages; households and businesses.
"At the moment our crime rates seem to have gone down, and this is purely because we’ve had somebody else helping to do that, and to help the police," she said.
Councillor Gareth Mackey (Central Bedfordshire) said: "My heart fell to the pit of my stomach when I heard that farmers have got to have third-party security firms effectively patrolling their land because of the failure in the policing.
"This is so disheartening to anyone, and what makes me sort of more [concerned] about it is that it is one step away from vigilantism."
Bedfordshire's police and crime commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye, replied: "I would not want to be saying that we have seen a failure of policing here, without an appreciation of the wider picture of our funding situation."
"So I would not want to go to the extent that we have seen a failure of policing given the fact that we’ve got such a large rural area, and the police resource and the level of demand when mapped against each other
"So I think it would be worthwhile caveating your comment there, even though I totally understand exactly where you are coming from," he said.
Councillor Mackay said: "It is a failure of policing and I'm gobsmacked that the commissioner that doesn't acknowledge that.
"That’s not to say that there is not work happening, that’s not to say it’s directly Bedfordshire Police’s fault because the commissioner knows I’m a big supporter of the police.
"Whether the blame lies with various governments retrenching the policing over the years, that’s irrelevant at the moment.
"We need to get to the bottom of why people we are responsible for feel the need to go to a third party and quite frankly to not acknowledge that as a failure is quite unforgivable."
The PCC said he understood the strength of councillor Mackey's feelings
But he said: "To say what you said without acknowledging the fact that per capita, we are one of the least funded police forces in England and Wales with one of the highest risk exposures in the country in some crime areas.
"I think I'll give it to others to decide for themselves.
"Of course. I would like police officers to be able to attend every single crime, I would want all crimes to be adequately addressed, but we can't just create enough police officers out of thin air."