RURAL communities in the Keighley district are "sitting ducks" when it comes to crime, it's claimed.

One villager has described a spate of incidents at Stanbury which had left residents in despair.

Oliver Williams said the community had been "ruthlessly targeted" by thieves, ransacking vehicles searching for valuables.

And paving slabs have also been taken. A quantity was stolen one night, only for the raiders to return 24 hours later – after council workers had coned off the area – and remove more.

Now calls are being made for the police and Bradford Council to step up efforts to tackle the problem.

Mr Williams says: "We’re sitting ducks in the countryside around Keighley, and the thieves know it.

"We routinely hear stories in the pub or on Facebook – from our neighbours, local farmers and residents in nearby villages – who feel they are being ruthlessly targeted by criminals.

"The incident involving the theft of the flags is frustrating; it’s a reminder that anything not bolted down is at risk.

"The fact that the thieves returned two nights in a row shows how brazen they are.

"Bradford Council replaced a section of stolen paving flags from the end of the village last July, but now it has happened again and this time an even larger section has gone. Why did the council not consider that the thieves would come back?

"It has deployable CCTV cameras it uses to catch fly-tippers, so why couldn’t they have set one up for this eventuality? It might have helped identify the vehicle used at least.

"We know the police are overstretched and facing serious challenges, but at times it feels like our more rural areas are forgotten about, and we are left at the hands of these criminal gangs.

"We don't want to move away, but it's not pleasant worrying that it might be your car – or home – next."

According to the latest Countryside Alliance annual rural crime survey, 73 per cent of the 2,000 respondents felt crime had got worse in the past 12 months. Also, 12 per cent said they felt unsafe after dark in their homes or communities.

Bradford Council told the Keighley News that it and the police were both committed to community safety.

A spokesperson said: "We will continue to work closely with West Yorkshire Police to promote community safety in all our villages and rural areas."