Stepping up on rural security

By David Rose

Farmers are urged to be vigilant about thefts and suspicious behaviour in their area.

Federated Farmers signed a Letter of Agreement with the police in November to work together to reduce rural crime. Farmers should take note of any suspicious activity on their property or neighbouring farms, lock sheds and homes and report any suspected theft immediately.

With rural crime issues, such as poaching and rustling, hitting the headlines this season the signing of the agreement was timely. Senior members of both organisations committed to meet regularly at a national and provincial level to develop strategies to help reduce and prevent rural crime.

The agreement comes as rustling of capital stock increases and people are illegally hunting or poaching on farms to fill their freezers or on-sell meat. Stock rustling and poaching do more than hit farming businesses' bottom lines.

The other dangers involved in- clude the risk of farmers and workers straying in to the path of armed hunters and potential health risks to people eating stolen meat.

Stock is regularly drenched for parasites and veterinary drugs have specific withholding periods because eating contaminated meat can cause serious illness.

There have been a few localised initiatives between rural police and farmers, such as a successful operation in Central Otago which lead to the elimination of a stock theft ring last year.

Poaching and rustling continues to be a problem in other areas, as seen with the theft of 200 pregnant merino ewes from a Mackenzie Country station between August and September, which is suspected to be linked to other large scale thefts in North Otago during the past 18 months.

Rustling has been a problem across the country with several instances also being reported around Rotorua and Taupo. Farmers also need to remember to lock up as it is not only stock which is being targeted.

Other crime reported from provinces included apparent theft to order in the central North Island of items such as quad bikes, tractor batteries and wool bales.

The theft of milk from Waikato vats before tanker pick-up was also reported. Locking a shed door and removing keys from vehicle ignitions are a good start in deterring thieves and there are also several alarm systems on the market which monitor entry points.

It is important to help police when crimes occur by reporting them promptly. Seemingly trivial information could help police spot a trend, or identify a criminal.

It is also important to pass information on to neighbours and your provincial Federated Farmers executive. This could prevent the on-selling of missing stock or unusual items.

It could also help piece together trends which could be reported to police, to aid the development of crime reduction and prevention initiatives. Federated Farmers looks forward to lessening rural crime with a closer relationship with police.

Crime prevention: what you can do

* If you see any unusual or suspicious activity, take note of details and contact the police.

* If a strange or suspicious vehicle is in the area, note the registration number. If there are any reports of crime in the area it could be the clue that makes the difference.

* Be cautious when approaching anyone you think is poaching on your land. They could be armed and could accidentally shoot a moving target. Don't put yourself or others at risk.

* If you leave the house to investigate anything, ensure someone knows where you are going, what you are checking and how long you expect to be. This could involve phoning the police and a neighbour, waiting for a neighbour to join you and taking a mobile phone or handheld radio.

* Take down details of their vehicles and/ or physical descriptions. Call the police.

* Keep in contact with neighbours and let them know if you see any unusual activity on their land.

* Lock sheds, vehicles and homes, including firearms and tool storage areas. A forced entry is usually obvious and thefts can be reported immediately.

* Consider investing in a security system for your entry points. There are several on the market which are ideal for farms. They can be found and ordered online.

* Record registration plate numbers or take photographs of people or vehicles acting suspiciously. Cellphone cameras give farmers another powerful crime fighting tool

- Hamilton News

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