09/22/2016 12:15 EDT | Updated 09/22/2016 12:15 EDT

Saskatchewan RCMP Ask Farmers Not To Carry Guns, Fight Crime

"People are just fed up."

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Hunter walking through meadow

REGINA — RCMP in Saskatchewan are asking rural residents not to take the law into their own hands.

Sgt. Earl LeBlanc says the force is aware of reports some farmers are carrying guns during harvest in response to crime in rural areas.

"If you observe or suspect a crime, for your own safety and the safety of others, report it to the police immediately,'' LeBlanc said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Regina.

"Do not chase or pursue suspects or suspect vehicles. Do not attempt to subdue suspects either with or without a firearm.''

"People are just fed up."

LeBlanc said police understand firearms are an integral part of rural life, such as for hunting or animal control on farms.

"But what we don't want people to do is to carry them for their own protection or for what they feel that is to protect others. Let us do our jobs.''

LeBlanc could not provide any numbers on whether rural crime is up or down.

Masked suspects allegedly approached farm hand

The reports of farmers carrying guns in their combines came after three masked suspects armed with handguns allegedly approached a farm hand who was driving on a road in west-central Saskatchewan, near the community of Fiske, on Monday.

The suspects were out of their vehicle at the time and on foot, so the farm hand was able to speed away. He told police he saw the suspects get into an older-style Black SUV.

The incident prompted a wide search involving Mounties from eight detachments, as well as volunteers flying in planes to search for the suspects and suspect vehicle.

Schools in the area were placed on a hold and secure as a precaution.

"If you observe or suspect a crime, for your own safety and the safety of others, report it to the police immediately."

Jim Wickett farms near Rosetown in west-central Saskatchewan and says "everybody is nervous'' after a series of stolen vehicles, break-ins and the alleged attempted hold-up on Monday. He says farmers are prepared to defend themselves.

"People are just fed up,'' Wickett, who is also chair of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, told Regina radio station CKRM.

"There doesn't seem to be much getting done. Certainly don't see any police presence out in the country at all so guys are willing to take matters into their own hands.''

Some farmers carry guns because 'they are afraid'

Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, says he's not hearing much directly from people about rural crime, but he's seeing it in the news.

"It's more common actually this time of year because of the fact that farmers are out in their fields doing harvest, so sometimes they're not in their yards as often,'' Orb said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Orb also says farmers are known to carry firearms to ward off wild animals, but "some of it might be because they are afraid.''

"They're not apt to use those weapons, but they are certainly willing to show people that shouldn't be there that they do have weapons on their property.''

— With files from CKRM

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