Crime Stoppers Victoria is urging farmers across the state to install or improve security on their properties to help deter thieves from stealing valuable livestock, machinery, and tools.
Launching today, in partnership with Victoria Police, the Shut Out Farm Crime campaign comes as theft from farms remains a widespread issue in Victoria.
New Crime Statistics Agency data shows livestock theft across the state rose 12.6 percent in the year to December 2021, costing hard-working communities more than $2.7 million.
Diesel theft has also risen with the value of fuel stolen jumping 20 per cent.
Western Victoria-based sheep farmer Daniel Buckingham said the rise of fuel theft is particularly concerning to him given the surging cost and explains how thieves can often carry out the crime without the victim realising.
“When someone’s taken 30, or 60, litres out of a 400-litre tank you’re probably not going to take too much notice of it. I think it’s going to be an increasing problem,” Mr Buckingham said.
Inspector Karl Curran, from Victoria Police’s Farm Crime Coordination Unit, said rises in crime recorded in the farming and rural sectors was a concern but also reflected recent campaigns with Crime Stoppers encouraging increased reporting to police.
“These campaigns have highlighted the historical underreporting issues we have within the sector,’’ Inspector Curran said.
“We are encouraged there appears to be more confidence in reporting farm crime to Victoria Police.”
Inspector Curran said the Crime Statistics Agency data reinforced the need for rural communities to remain vigilant in preventing farm crime.
“We will work with the community to address their concerns and meet their expectations by fully investigating all crimes that are reported to us,’’ he said.
“The more information and reports we receive the more we are able to identify crime trends and put resources into these areas. As I have often said, we cannot investigate what we do not know.”
Crime Stoppers Victoria CEO Stella Smith said despite the prevalence of farm crime, victims remain hesitant to contact authorities, allowing criminals to get away with offending.
“Not speaking up allows criminals to get away with offending and it affects farmers economically. If they don’t have money to spend in the local community, that impacts local traders as well,” Ms Smith said.
Dr Alistair Harkness, Co-Director of the Centre for Rural Criminology at the University of New England, added that non-reporting affects resourcing decisions made by authorities.
Farmer James Kirkpatrick, also based in Western Victoria, encouraged fellow property owners to take farm security into their own hands.
“Improve your security measures, it makes it hard for the criminals to come and break into your property and take things,” Mr Kirkpatrick said.
To further protect properties, farmers will be offered free farm gate security signs, and stickers displaying information about how to report information. These helpful resources will be available at select agricultural events across Victoria throughout the year.
“Farmers do an amazing job. They cope with floods, drought, and all sorts of other things. They shouldn’t have to put up with thieves as well,” Ms Smith said, adding that the rural community should feel confident that the information they share to Crime Stoppers will remain secure.
“When you come to Crime Stoppers, you control how much information you give us. You decide whether you want to say who you are, you decide how much information you share.”
Inspector Curran said there were simple ways of safeguarding properties including tagging livestock, locking gates and sheds, securing tools and equipment and where possible locking fuel bowsers and storage tanks.
Placing sensor lights around sheds and yards was also recommended along with doing regular stock headcounts so thefts were identified as soon as possible, getting CCTV and installing warning signs provided through police and Crime Stoppers to deter thieves.
“The farm gate signs we have provided have proved incredibly popular and we’re pleased to be able to offer even more free to farmers as well as new warning stickers through our partnership with Crime Stoppers,’’ Inspector Curran said.
“They’re simple measures but can go a long way to discouraging farm crime and its devastating effects on local communities.”
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