DURHAM’S Chief constable will back a partnership approach to fighting rural crime this week when he speaks at a conference in Sedgefield.

DCC Mike Barton will be a key speaker at the North East Rural Crime Conference at the Hardwick Hall Hotel on Wednesday, November 14.

The conference, which has been organised by the National Farmers Union, will bring together farmers, land-owners and residents from rural communities to highlight the impact of rural crime, explore best practice, highlight partnership work and promote crime prevention.

According to the event sponsors NFU Mutual, the national cost of theft from UK farms rose to £52.7m in 2011 – an increase of five per cent from 2010.

The estimated cost of theft in the North-East was £7.8m in 2011.

DCC Barton said the Wear and Tees Farm Watch Scheme, which was named the UK’s top crime-fighting initiative, was just one example of how the police are working with rural communities to tackle crime.

“Hundreds of volunteers turn out to the regular Farm Watch operational nights and they are our eyes and ears in rural communities the whole year round,” he said.

“We also work with our colleagues in neighbouring forces – criminals don’t stick to boundaries and they are finding that we don’t either.”