POLICE are urging rural landowners to report livestock and farm equipment theft.
Members of Victoria Police’s Livestock and Farm-related Crime Strategy taskforce spoke at the Elmore Field Days yesterday to address growing rates of livestock, firearms and farm equipment theft across the region.
Detective Rod Stepnall said sheep owners estimated 20 to 50 head of livestock were stolen from their properties per year.
He said most of this went officially unreported to police.
“We’re trying to get the farmers to tell us when and where theft is happening, because then we can start to investigate it.
“The locals know when something is not right.
“In the saleyards, agents know when someone is coming in with 30 sheep irregularly.”
Detective Stepnall said firearm theft was also on the rise.
In January, 50 rural burglaries were committed in Victoria, with more than 200 firearms stolen.
“A lot of it is stealing for the drug trade,” Detective Stepnall said.
“They’re keen to get firearms and it’s an easy way to do it.”
The police are also working to improve relationships with Victorian Farmers Federation and the Department of Primary Industries to help combat the issue.
Lockington sheep farmer Robert Mitchell said it was hard to put a figure on what was stolen from his property.
“You certainly hear about it from time to time,” he said.
“The thing is you don’t know if sheep have been stolen unless you keep exact records.”
Mr Mitchell agreed that livestock was a popular choice for thieves because the animals were a valuable commodity and could be quite easily traded.
Detective Stepnall said he expected figures of livestock theft to rise as more farmers became comfortable reporting it to police.