FARMERS in Barnsley’s most rural locations are being targeted by criminals on the hunt for high-value vehicles and machinery, an annual study has revealed.

According to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), 2020 and 2021 saw a reduction in thefts - a decrease attributed to long spells of Covid-19 lockdowns - before incidents started to climb.

However, a new report - released last week - suggests rates have climbed back up to pre-pandemic levels and Land Rover Defender thefts have rocketed.

The Chronicle can reveal local farmers - pinpointed to isolated areas along the West Yorkshire border including Dunford Bridge and Ingbirchworth - have endured a 34 per cent rise in thefts.

Penistone, which covers 52 per cent of the borough’s land, has a policing team in place - something which is helping combat local concerns, according to leaders.

However Coun Hannah Kitching, who represents Penistone West, urged the police to take action to protect vulnerable locations.

“I have one farmer who contacts me whose home is in Kirklees but much of her land is classed as Barnsley.

“That’s not unusual for this area and thieves know that, hence why cross-border crime is such a big issue.

“There needs to be a more joined-up approach from the police, as we have South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Derbyshire forces all closely linked.

“Farmers who have been impacted by rural crime are very effective at talking to each other, sharing CCTV and anything untoward, but they deserve help.”

With diesel and fertiliser prices also soaring and the cost-of-living crisis biting, NFU bosses say the coming months will be particularly tough for farmers.

A spokesperson from the NFU said: “The cost of rural crime dropped by 9.3 per cent in 2021, the second annual fall since the start of the pandemic.

“However, now is not the time for complacency - initial indications reveal that the first quarter of 2022 has seen thieves making up for lost time over the pandemic, with costs over 40 per cent higher than the same period last year.

“Behind every crime there is an impact on farmers and their families - farms are places of work and people’s homes.”

Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, added: “Over the past year, a number of constituents have talked to me about their experience of rural crime, also raising the need for more police action.

“I’ve been made aware of some terrible crimes that have been committed in our more rural communities, and have become increasingly aware that people living in remote areas can feel vulnerable.

“Everyone knows that our cities demand a visible police presence, but village and farming communities should also feel safe, and it’s time that rural crime was taken as seriously as urban crime.

“I would encourage everyone to continue to report all crimes to the police, so that they can build up a clear picture of what is going on and take action where appropriate.”