Tackling rural crime
RURAL and agricultural crime is a serious issue and police understand the concerns of those who have been directly involved.
People affected by this type of crime not only suffer emotional and financial distress, but when key equipment or machinery is stolen, this has a direct impact on their ability to carry on their business. Tackling this crime is a priority for police.
We are committed to reducing rural and agricultural crime across Northern Ireland. Our strategy sets out the policing approach in reducing opportunities for this type of crime by increasing public awareness, working with other partner agencies and commercial stakeholders to identify ways of preventing crime, and targeting and arresting those committing such offences.
As lead for the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s service-wide Rural and Agricultural Crime Strategy, I and senior officers from across Northern Ireland meet as part of a working group, chaired by Assistant Chief Constable Dave Jones, to discuss and review actions and events, and to make recommendations directed at deterring and detecting those who carry out criminal activities in rural and farming areas.
As communication and engagement with those directly involved forms part of the strategy, a rural crime text alert scheme has been established across rural communities, which is used to appeal for information specifically within the rural and farming localities.
I am aware of how expensive farm machinery is and how difficult it is to replace. I and other police officers and staff have attended rural and farming events throughout Northern Ireland over the summer months, where we have introduced and promoted large-scale trailer marking schemes. Crime Prevention and Neighbourhood Policing Officers have and continue to attend events and are engaging with farmers and farm workers to raise their awareness of preventative schemes (anyone interested in finding out more about the text alert and trailer marking schemes should contact their local Neighbourhood Policing Team or Crime Prevention Officer).
By working together with metal and cable utility companies, we have assisted in finding ways to reduce and prevent cable and metal theft by making it harder to steal. This has increased information flow between scrap metal dealers and our officers which has proven to be valuable.
The prevention and detection of rural and agricultural crime continues on a day-to-day basis and includes officers patrolling rural roads throughout the day and night. Following the recent thefts of livestock in Loughuile and Broughshane, I have issued a service wide direction for vehicles carrying livestock to be stopped and checked. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and local police have requested assistance from rural communities by asking them to report suspicious activity surrounding the movement of livestock.
Engagement and working in partnership with other stakeholders forms an important part of our strategy. Along with the Ulster Farmers’ Union and NFU Mutual, we have introduced a major anti-theft campaign which was initially promoted at the Balmoral Show 2012 and will be further publicised at other farming events and shows.
Although there has been an increase in the theft of livestock during the first five months of 2012, recent figures have shown an overall decrease of 22.7% in agricultural crime in the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 2011. These figures indicate that our strategy is working but we have much more to achieve and we will continue to work in partnership with the community and farming stakeholders to make the progress necessary.
Rural and agriculture crime affects more than just those people who are direct victims; it impacts on jobs, the environment and the economy. It is a concern for all of us and I would therefore ask for assistance from the public in providing information that may support us in continuing to prevent crime and arresting those individuals or gangs that carry out offences within rural communities.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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