Rural groups across the Westcountry are being encouraged to apply for a small grant scheme to help combat crime in the countryside.
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Tony Hogg urged people living in more rural parts of Devon and Cornwall to bid for project funding as he opened the second round of the scheme to applications.
A total of £100,000 is available to groups or organisations who can each apply for a maximum of £5,000.
Mr Hogg has decided that 40 per cent of the cash will be ring-fenced for projects which aim to reduce the harm caused by alcohol – one of his target areas – but said he would welcome applications from groups focusing on crime in rural areas.
In the first round of the scheme more than 170 groups applied for a grant and £90,000 was awarded to 25 organisations.
“I recently met with most of those groups to hear how they are planning to use the money to make a difference in their communities,” said Mr Hogg.
“The harm caused by alcohol misuse is so costly to our communities that it is right we ring fence a large proportion of round two funding for groups who can help alleviate the suffering it brings.
“But I also strongly believe there is an opportunity for established or newly formed groups in rural locations to come up with ideas to help make their communities safer – be that by preventing crime, diverting potential offenders away from the criminal justice system or helping victims – and to join the bidding process.
“We know that a relatively small amount of money can have a disproportionately large effect when targeted within a community and the small grant scheme is there to do just that, to help people who really care about their communities to make a difference.”
The focus on rural crime follows recent warnings that a countryside crime wave was being fuelled by organised gangs.
MPs were told gangs were used illegal profits to support terrorism and also risked the spread of diseases such as foot and mouth
The Government was accused of failing to adequately fund policing in the countryside and ignoring the “fear of crime” among isolated and elderly communities.
The debate was led by Kent Conservative MP Gordon Henderson. He said rural areas “will continue to take second place” in the fight for police budgets.
The Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP said criminals were “increasingly targeting high-value tractors ... stealing them to order”. He also spoke of “large amounts” of stolen ammonium nitrate-based fertiliser, which has been a “component of some of the most devastating terrorist bomb blasts in the world”.
Livestock rustling had become so common, he said, that animals “are no longer tracked, increasing the risk of another foot-and-mouth epidemic”.
The small grants scheme was launched by Mr Hogg last year to help small, grassroots organisations working to reduce crime and make people feel safer.
It was part of his pledge to put the charitable and community sector at the heart of policing and his promise to find new ways to help organisations help themselves.