WILDLIFE officers and a volunteer mounted unit could be the future of tackling rural crime in Dorset.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martyn Underhill met with members of Dorset National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to discuss the issues faced by farmers.

Mr Underhill called for a county-wide approach to schemes such as Stop That Thief, which operates in the Bridport and North Dorset areas.

He also pledged to clear up confusion over whether fly-tipping is a police or civil matter.

NFU county chairman for Dorset Paul Gould said the meeting was ‘very positive’.

He said: “I hope it will be the first of many. Fly-tipping is very frustrating to farmers, because we are always the ones who end up clearing it up.”

Mr Gould added: “At present, it seems that when you report a crime you might perhaps talk to a policeman who is not very au fait with countryside laws, or familiar with the area.”

The meeting follows a review by Dorset Police into rural crime.

Mr Underhill said: “We are soon to find out the results from that review, but it already suggests the need to send consistent messages to the rural community.”

Police could also be working with horse owners to form a mounted volunteer force.

Mr Underhill said: “People have come forward from Sherborne, Shaftesbury and the rural county at large.

“We haven’t had this capability in Dorset for more than 20 years, so this is welcome news. We’re going to explore working with an equestrian society for a training programme.”

The volunteers would not police football matches or public order events, he added, but ‘take a uniform presence to their own rural communities’. Six wildlife special officers will also be put to use across the county.

Mr Underhill said they will be trained in wildlife crime and work with organisations such as the RSPCA, the NFU and the Countryside Alliance.

He added: “The Chief Constable and I want to see the policing of rural communities becoming more effective, despite having fewer officers.”