NEW “spy in the sky” drones could soon be flying over Saddleworth’s hills to combat the rise in rural crime, a police chief revealed.

The hi-tech drones would be backed by flexible off the road vehicles offering an instant response to farmers and help raise the police profile.

Daniel Inglis, GMP district superintendent for Oldham, announced the proposal after a two-hour summit meeting with Saddleworth farmers, senior officials from the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth.

The MP organised the meeting after approaches by worried farmers living in isolated homesteads over wide-ranging problems which include this disturbing catalogue: thefts of vital quad, tractor and key farm machinery; sheep worrying by unthinking dog owners and livestock thefts; violent threats towards land owners and farmers and farm house break-ins.

After the meeting Superintendent Inglis said: “I was pleased to meet members of the farming community to improve the way we work together.

“We all recognise communication is key and we are looking at how we use technology to improve this and connect people.

“We are also exploring new technology in GMP with the newly formed drone team and also other vehicles that will help raise our policing profile and effectiveness.

“We are already working with the fire service, but we want to build a wider network with other partners too, which we will be doing in the coming weeks.”

Matthew Gummerson, the NFUs agent, said: “The NFU is working closely with West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and now Greater Manchester police to try and combat rural crime.

“We have been into the police call centres educating police call handlers around what to look for when people are reporting rural crime.

“Farmers are working on a number of communication lines like Whatsapp and Facebook to relay real time information to the police.

“The police are also investing in drone technology and more suitable off road vehicles to help stop this rural crime issues.

The police will be doing patrols on the new quad bikes when they arrive — hopefully that will be soon.”

A worried local farmer, who did not want to be named, said: “We are facing almost daily threats to livestock and the possibility of theft.

“I’ve been warned of physical violence by intruders and, in addition to rustlers stealing my livestock, I’ve had vandals just simply knocking drystone walls over.”

Ms Abrahams added: “It was a really useful and informative meeting. There was a clear willingness of everyone to work together to make the community we live and work in safer.”

Meanwhile, Saddleworth Parish Councillor Neil Allsopp has suggested the Saddleworth Rambler, inter-village bus service, could be fitted with a dash cam to help monitor anything untoward.

He told the parish council’s transport and traffic sub-committee: “The bus is continually going round. It would be a useful evidence gathering tool. I think this would be of great value and help to police.

Councillors moved to take the matters to the full parish council and TfGM for approval.