MP IAN Liddell-Grainger has called on Avon and Somerset police to ensure rural areas receive their ‘fair share’ of the 130 extra officers the force has gained in a recruitment drive.
The recruits are among the 6,000 to join up nationally in the first year of a government-backed initiative.
And ministers say they are now on track to deliver 20,000 extra officers by 2023 with the first 6,000 in place by next March.
But the Conservative member for Bridgwater and West Somerset says the force must use the new recruits to make good some of the reduction in manpower rural areas have experienced over the past 20 years.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “Apparently Avon and Somerset now has 2,965 officers but to many, many people in rural areas they are all invisible.
“We have seen rural police stations close and rural localities where there were once 20 or 30 policemen reduced to having no more than three or four.
“In the meantime rural crime has soared and is now costing around £50 million a year.”
Mr Liddell-Grainger said he had seen official statistics suggesting the incidence of crime in rural areas was lower than in towns and cities.
“On a per capita basis that can probably be argued,” he said.
“But when thieves can remove entire flocks of sheep or herds of cattle or help themselves to farm machinery worth in the hundreds of thousands of pounds the impact of crime is just as great.
“And clearly something has gone wrong. Thieves have become more audacious purely because they know there is at best a token police presence in the countryside so the chances of them being caught are commensurately slender.
“Farmers and others in country areas pay exactly the same contributions towards policing costs as their urban neighbours yet receive a dismally inferior service.
“A wave of new recruits is going to remove the ability of Avon and Somerset police to cite lack of manpower as the reason for lower levels of policing in rural areas and I look forward to some positive steps being taken very quickly to correct this unacceptable deficiency.”