One of the fascinating happenings during the Covid-19 pandemic was a national re-evaluation of who was really important when it came to our day-to-day survival.

Front and centre of those who were regarded as ‘key workers’ - encouraged to keep working through the worst restrictions – were those involved in the supply of foods. Before lockdowns we could have been forgiven for overlooking the vital role that grocers and farmers play in our daily lives.

More reason, then, that we should take a tough stance on those who threaten the people who produce our food and who are part of the supply chain which puts it on our table.

I was distraught to hear last week that retailers feel police are not taking shoplifting seriously enough. Lord Stuart Rose, chairman of Asda, said he thought shoplifting had been effectively decriminalised. 

There is evidence to suggest that criminal gangs are now involved in shoplifting, and, of course, we all pay the price for it as companies try to recoup the costs. It is not good enough and I was pleased to hear that retailers including the John Lewis Partnership are working with police to identify and arrest prolific shoplifters, using the latest AI technology.

Police in Devon and Cornwall will take action, particularly when shop staff do not feel safe, and we all have a duty to ensure that these crimes are reported to the force.

Another sector that was crucial to us all during the pandemic, and is particularly important to us in the Westcountry, is agriculture. Sadly it too is at risk from organised crime groups who target valuable equipment.

I regard a theft which deprives someone of their means of earning a living as particularly egregious and agree with councillors who told my police and crime panel meeting on Friday, September 15 that more needs to be done to crack down on those who target farms.

This week is Rural Crime Action Week and our force, and its rural crime team, will be working on a number of initiatives around Devon and Cornwall. There will be a focus on rural antisocial behaviour (ASB) such as livestock worrying, and Operation Loki, which engaged 27,000 people in our cities and towns earlier this year in an urban-focused series of events, is going rural.

If you have information for the police about rural crime please take this opportunity to speak to officers or staff about it when they are out and about, at one of our stations or via the 101 non-emergency reporting service. To pass information anonymously to the police contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

I have also been working with other Police and Crime Commissioners to better understand the effects of rural crime on communities and have been running a public survey this summer. Please take a few minutes to complete it online at