Farmers urged to 'shut out farm crime'
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.
Launched recently, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Anyone with information about farm crime is urged to make an anonymous report to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or crimestoppersvic.com.au.