Rural crime: Stock losses add up to $3.2 million across NSW

RURAL CRIME: More than $3.2 million in sheep and cattle were stolen during 2018 and police are urging farmers to download the Tackling Rural Crime Handbook. Photos: NSW POLICE
RURAL CRIME: More than $3.2 million in sheep and cattle were stolen during 2018 and police are urging farmers to download the Tackling Rural Crime Handbook. Photos: NSW POLICE

IN the past 12 months more the 20,000 individual head of stock were stolen from NSW farms, with the loss of sheep and cattle alone costing farmers $3.2 million.

A recently-completed series of crime prevention strategy workshops were held across NSW and the Central West and now the information is also available online.

Stock theft, trespass and illegal hunting are major concerns for primary producers in the region, State Rural Crime Co-ordinator Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside said.

MISSING: In February 36, 2017 drop merino wethers were reported missing. Photo: NSW POLICE

MISSING: In February 36, 2017 drop merino wethers were reported missing. Photo: NSW POLICE

Market price, isolation/distance and opportunity are major factors in why farmers' stock is targeted.

"The animals are worth a lot of money, are farmed at locations that are often isolated which provides the thieves the opportunity to enter the property and remove the stock without detection," Det Insp Whiteside said.

During 2018, there were 372 separate cases of stock theft and a total of 20,008 animals stolen.

More sheep were stolen than any other animal with 17,969 taken during the 12-month period.

There were also 1454 cattle stolen, followed by goats (467), poultry (68), horses (30), dogs (19) and one pig.

Despite the high numbers, Det Insp Whiteside said reported stock theft cases had dropped two per cent compared to the $4.2m worth taken during 2017.

"This decrease would be a combination of less livestock on properties due to the drought and our targeted approach to target rural crime offenders," he said.

ON PATROL: Night patrols are also conducted by rural crime investigators. Photo: NSW POLICE

ON PATROL: Night patrols are also conducted by rural crime investigators. Photo: NSW POLICE

"During 2018 farmers have destocked their properties, forced to monitor their livestock closely and have been generally more aware of the movement of their animals.

"Times have been extremely hard for our farmers during this drought, so the value of their stock, which is imperative to ensure their farm remains a working farm, is much higher than the market price."

Det Insp said the estimated losses do not take into account the loss of animal by-product or future breeding potential.

Ensuring the safety of your livestock

Det Insp said improved identification methods of livestock, regular monitoring, ensuring property boundaries are well maintained and using CCTV were some of the strategies farmers could employ.

"Being aware of new technology and taking advantage of this when available, such as GPS ear tags, computerised boundary monitoring and drones," he said.

"We want to work with the farming industries to develop strategies to reduce stock theft."

Meet the Rural Crime Prevention Team

The state's Rural Crime Prevention Team consists of a group of officers who are specialised investigators.

"They generally have a rural background, have been trained to target rural crime and have a passion second-to-none to track down rural crime offenders and put them before the court," Det Insp Whiteside said.

"This team is unique in their skills and knowledge."

Rural crime policing to increase

In February, Western Region Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie announced an additional 18 rural crime investigators would work across the state.

The first six officers will commence work this July, with another six to start each year for the next two years.

Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said the additional investigators would make a massive difference in combating rural crimes.

“Given the drought and other conditions, the impact of theft particularly of stock could be very significant on people involved in rural industries,” he said.

“Often people are not insured.

“We want to target the core of criminals operating in these areas.”

How to report a crime

  • In an emergency call triple-0
  • Non-emergencies call 131 444
  • Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000
  • To find your local rural crime investigator, visit www.police.nsw.gov.au and search ‘rural crime’.
  • The NSW Police Community Portal is an online reporting option for non-emergency crime such as theft, vandalism and lost property (including firearms, chemicals and vehicles). Visit www.police.nsw.gov.au/ community_portal