Farmers and police build trust to deter rural crime, with many offences going under-reported – ABC Rural
Many farmers are not reporting crimes on their properties because they believe the perpetrators will not be caught, a study shows.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) recently surveyed 700 farmers and found that only 30 per cent of farmers reported crimes — like illegal hunting — on their properties.
The DPI’s Game Licensing Unit has been working with New South Wales police to detect and deter illegal hunting.
DPI Game Licensing director Andrew Moriarty said successful crackdowns were hard to achieve with so few farmers reporting crimes.
“We cannot build a really strong picture as to where the illegal hunting is happening, who is impacted, where we need to direct our resources,” Dr Moriarty said.
Assistant Commissioner and commander of police in the Western NSW region, Geoff McKechnie, said he had seen an increase in farmer confidence but conceded there was more work to be done to build trust that perpetrators would be caught and convicted.
“We have got to produce results as well,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.
“We certainly want to make reporting as timely and as easy as possible as well … people are time poor and often reluctant to spend time doing those sorts of things.”
He said police and communities needed to work together to deter crime.
Stock theft and illegal hunting are two of the major rural crimes affecting farmers and their communities.
A global trend
The lack of confidence farmers have in reporting rural crime is not just a trend throughout New South Wales and the nation.
Kreseda Smith has been researching the relationship between police and farmers throughout the United Kingdom, and in a 12-month period had found rural crime had cost the UK farming community about $80 million.
But the figure was tallied only from the crimes that had been reported.
“Unfortunately it seems to be the case that farmers are tending to feel abandoned by the police in many cases,” Dr Smith said.
However, police were working to improve their relationship with local farmers to increase reporting.
“There are a number of strategic responses going on across the UK,” Dr Smith said.
“I am seeing more police forces individually working with farmers and academia to try and improve the way police are responding.”
South African farmer and academic Willie Clack said there were similar trends in his country.
“In South Africa, there is a total lack of confidence between the farming community and the police,” he said.
“It is not an Aussie or South African phenomenon, it is world phenomenon.
“You can go and look into research that has been done all over the world … there is no confidence.”
Let us know
Rural Crime Squad Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside said he was aware that, at times, there was inaction.
He said when farmers found that to be the case, they should bring that to the attention of other officers higher up the chain.
“We have not always got it right in the past and we are trying to minimise that [inaction] in the future,” Detective Inspector Whiteside said.
“If they believe they are not getting the service, ask for the supervisor and ultimately we want to take the report and do what we can.”
He also warned landholders that they had a responsibility to make their property as crime-proof as possible.
Technology is helping
Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said plenty was being done to ensure more arrests were made, especially when it came to serious crimes such as illegal hunting.
“It can be a pretty scary experience for people alone, some distance from help when they see spotlights or hear gunshots,” he said.
“We are certainly using cameras, all sorts of devices where we can locate these people and conduct survellience of these particular areas.”
Recently NSW police have been seizing vehicles of illegal hunters in an effort to stamp out trespassing.
Dr Moriarty said the DPI’s working relationship with NSW police was also proving beneficial.
“I think it is about getting the information out there a lot better than we have and I think there is a fairly strong campaign between us and police brewing in this space,” he said.
Farmers are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 to report offences.