PSNI have said they are committed to working with farmers to combat rural crime in the area after it was revealed that it cost an estimated £4.2 million in Northern Ireland last year.
The figures provided by a leading rural insurer showed that agri-crime is up six per cent in the UK with tools, heating oil/red diesel and quad bikes at the top of the list for targeted thefts.
Cookstown Inspector Hazel Moucka explained that combating these crimes is a key priority for local police.
“Farmers, rural dwellers and the police can all play vital roles in thwarting the activities of the crooks,” she said. “Tackling crime against the rural community is a major priority for police. We understand the effect these crimes have on communities and the grave impact they can have on farmers’ livelihoods. There is significant ongoing work throughout Northern Ireland with local Neighbourhood Police Officers and Crime Prevention Officers working extremely closely with farmers, to identify their needs, tackle crime and offer support and advice on how to make their farms more secure.”
“The new Farmwatch initiative is tailored specifically to the needs of the rural and farming community.
Inspector Moucka explained.
“The Farmwatch scheme is free to join and members will benefit from a range of crime prevention measures including Farmwatch Area signage, text alerts regarding rural crime, trailer marking and access to all manner of PSNI approved crime prevention products, often at a subsidised cost.
“Police are aware of the real concerns of the farming community particularly with regard to livestock theft, and are working closely with partner agencies, including the Ulster Farmers Union and DARD, to combat the thieves.
“Nevertheless, any measures that are taken would be wholly complemented if the police receive assistance and information from the rural community.
“The Farmwatch scheme will give my officers the opportunity to engage with farmers and build relationships that will permit a regular exchange of information on the activities of those who wish to prey on the hard-working rural community.”
Some of the more improvised defence mechanisms used by NFU Mutual members include keeping geese to alert homeowners of intruders, storing quad bikes in a pen behind a Friesian bull or housing louder and more aggressive animals such as llamas in with other livestock.
James McCluggage, NFU Mutual Agent in Larne, advises that small steps can make life much harder for rural criminals.
He said: “You don’t have to break the bank with high-tech security measures. Making sure your property is well lit, marking valuable items with SmartWater and working with community groups are cheap yet effective alternatives to deter thieves.”
Anyone who would like crime prevention advice should contact their local Crime Prevention Officer on 0845 600 8000.