THERE has been much to examine and analyse in this week’s report released by the University of New England (UNE) about rural crime.
More specifically, the study conducted by UNE was about crime on farms and looked at the trends evident since a similar 2001 study.
Of major concern will be the finding that while crime might have fallen in most other places, it hasn’t on our farms.
In fact, more than seven of every 10 of those farmers caught in the survey – and there were some 3160 of them – had experienced some type of crime on their place in the past 12 years.
There have been more incidents of trespass and illegal hunting and theft of fuel and stock.
Alarmingly, and overall, only about half of all farm thefts or crime are actually reported to police.
And that, according to New England local area commander Superintendent Fred Trench, poses more of a problem for police.
He’s encouraged farmers and those on the land to shed any form of reluctance about reporting suspicious behaviour or their theories of suspect crime.
It is only through being armed with that intelligence that the force can in fact put into place local strategies that can target the crime, he says.
Farm crime invariably pops up with regularity – not just a few jumbucks from the top paddock, but also fuel, firearms, household items, prize breeding stock, machinery and farm vehicles.
They disappear, and often their reports come eons after they might have occurred, because they’re isolated or not missed for ages, or simply overlooked until there’s a roundup or reckoning for sale.
UNE Associate Professor Elaine Barclay’s survey found that in the main farmers failed to report crimes because they were too difficult to prove, or they were not considered serious.
She also discovered that sometimes there was uncertainty over whether a crime had actually occurred and many farmers thought it was a waste of time reporting crimes because there was little the police could or would do.
And while many of us might just think farm crime is purely a financial cost and pressure, it isn’t. It has wider impacts, psychologically and socially.
Neighbourhood thefts cause rifts in the community and can isolate victims of crime.
Some large thefts are committed by organised crime networks.
Some create more suspicion in their communities, of a local nature, of individual suspects.
The results are food for thought for many. And a basis for strategic action for some.
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