Police issue a warning on farm hefts, with many not reported

Cattle transport in rural Australia with a semi truck

Michelle Slater

POLICE are urging farmers to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to put the clamps on farm crime and livestock theft.

Victoria Police Farm Crime Coordination Unit inspector Karl Curran said only about 50 per cent of farm crimes were officially reported.

Inspector Curran said the under-reporting of farm crime made it difficult for police to fully investigate or deploy the necessary resources to tackle the problem.

“Farmers are often reluctant to report, but it is vital that all livestock theft as well as other farm crime is reported to allow us to look at other similar offences,” he said.

“It is also important for members of the community to report any suspicious activity – the information they have might be the last piece of the puzzle needed to solve the crime.”

The Farm Crime Coordination Unit was created in 2019 as a dedicated unit targeting farm crime, including livestock and equipment theft.

Inspector Curran said the unit focussed on crimes including livestock, machinery, tools fuel or chemical theft, illegal hunting and animal activism.

He said farmers could play a part in preventing crimes by accounting for livestock, locking their homes, checking and locking sheds, gates or loading ramps, and securing machinery and vehicles.

“This is about good practices,” Inspector Curran said.

“Theft can be a huge loss to a farmer’s livelihood.

“We take this seriously, and this is why we want to know about it.

“In light of livestock theft, we strongly urge farmers to be vigilant.

“There is often no signs of damage to fences or gates, meaning farmers may be unaware that stock might be missing.”

Inspector Curran said thieves often acted opportunistically, and would take advantage of anything left open or unsecured.

“In the rural community, people are still trusting and believe nothing will ever happen,” he said.

“But we can’t be like this any more.

“Locals know what cars go down local roads, and if they see something suspicious or different, or see someone come onto a property, report it.”

How farmers can protect homes and properties

Around the homestead:

  • Secure tools, sheds and stockyards and build storage facilities in sight of the main residence;
  • Install sensor lights around buildings;
  • Tell trusted neighbours when you are away for any length of time;
  • Display crime prevention signs and if possible, install overt CCTV.
  • Protect farm machinery, firearms and equipment:
  • Ensure all firearms are securely stored with ammunition, bolts and magazines kept separately;
  • Secure tools to prevent thieves being able to use them to force open other storage areas;
  • List and photograph all machinery and equipment – including the make and serial numbers;
  • Engrave or mark equipment and keep a invoices and receipts;
  • Never leave the keys to vehicles or machinery in the ignition;
  • Ensure chemicals and fertilisers are stored in their original containers and safely secured;
  • Ensure valuables are stored away from view through doors and windows;
  • Do not discuss items owned, or secured locations with anyone;
  • Check firearms and tools regularly to make sure nothing is missing or has been tampered with.

Keep livestock and stockyards safe:

  • Ensure all stock are identified at an early age (NLIS, ear tags, microchips);
  • Consider photographing and videoing livestock regularly;
  • Keep receipts or records of purchases as proof of ownership;
  • Keep track of agisted stock and their markings;
  • Count stock regularly, especially those out of view of the homestead;
  • Ensure fencing is secure and external gates have locks.