AS government cuts continue to bite and local police officers become an increasingly rare sight in rural villages, volunteers are helping bridge the gap to ensure crime is stamped out.

Northumbria Police figures revealed last year that whilst savings of more than £142m had been made since 2010/11, officer numbers have dropped by 1,038 since 2010 due to police cuts. A shift in focus to crimes such as fraud, sexual offences and violent crime has left people in local communities without their usual bobby on the beat.

In communities around the region, residents have been taking action. Northumbria Police’s Operation Checkpoint scheme has seen volunteers, equipped with police radios, deployed in rural locations, to report on anything suspicious, leading to an officer attending the scene.

Farmers in other areas of the country have employed former soldiers and security firms after becoming frustrated by police taking up to 45 minutes to respond to stolen equipment.

Rural areas throughout Tynedale, including farms, often fall victim to crime groups who target the farming industry and rural properties for their agricultural machinery and all-terrain vehicles.

Despite this, Northumbria Police have insisted they remain committed to working with a range of partners and organisations to protect rural communities. In a bid to stamp out the particular crime, Northumbria Police are working in conjunction with Durham, Cleveland and North-East Specialist Operations Unit in a fierce crackdown on serious and organised crime.

Superintendent Andy Huddleston, from Northumbria Police, is also the national police lead for agricultural machinery and vehicle thefts.

He said: “We know many offenders see this type of crime as low risk with a high gain – and there are often a number of factors to this. We are talking about high-value machinery which is in demand both here and abroad, and it is often stored in yards and buildings away from dwellings where these groups feel they are less likely to be caught in the act.

“So, let me make it clear. If anyone is involved in organised and serious crime, we will pursue them and ultimately do everything in our power to bring them to justice.

“As a force, we are committed to tackling this kind of activity and protecting the public from the potential harmful effects it can have on their communities.”

But it’s not just the district’s rural villages which are affected. Since 2014, police stations at Bellingham, Haltwhistle, Ponteland and Corbridge have been closed and relocated into fire stations or other community buildings, with no front desk open for the public to report crime.

Hexham Police Station was the only station to survive the cuts. The move brought widespread outrage across Tynedale, but the chief constable at the time, Sue Sim, issued reassurances that neighbourhood officers would remain based in the communities they serve.

Haltwhistle town councillor Margaret Forrest is concerned at the lack of police cover in the town. She said: “I’ve helped the police for a lot of years, and I really think we’re getting a raw deal.”

Despite funding cuts, the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales survey ranked Northumbria Police the best in the country.

The force was ranked the highest of all 43 forces based on community confidence and satisfaction levels.