Incidents of livestock theft continue to impact farmers in the Bendigo area, with recent statistics showing incidents have either remained steady or increased marginally in surrounding local government areas over the past year.
This week, Crime Stoppers Victoria partnered with Victoria Police, the launch a new campaign "Putting a Spotlight on Farm Crime".
The campaign aims to increase farm crime reported in Victoria, whether it's stolen livestock, harvested animals, firearms, equipment, tools, or chemicals.
New data released by the Crime Statistics Agency last week, revealed livestock theft across the state had risen by two per cent in the past 12 months, costing rural communities close to $2,000,000.
Farm Crime Liaison Officer Leading Senior Constable Dan O'Bree said livestock theft in particular can have a huge impact on the livelihoods of farmers, including those in central Victoria.
"We often see lambs in the area being stolen from paddocks before they have been tagged," he said.
"We urge farmers to tag livestock as soon as possible to reduce this risk.
"Coming into spring it's also a good time to make sure your stock counts are accurate as shearing resumes."
Leading Senior Constable O'Bree said if you see any strange vehicles in your area or are travelling on back roads, take their details and contact Crime Stoppers or your local Farm Crime liaison officer.
He said reports to Crime Stoppers can be made anonymously.
Crime Stoppers Victoria chief executive Stella Smith said farm thieves were becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they target victims.
"We're seeing offenders use drones and satellite imagery to spy on rural properties," she said.
"It doesn't matter if you live in a remote area, with technology criminals can easily find a way to steal from you."
Ms Smith said it was vital farmers and property owners make a report to Crime Stoppers if they've been targeted by criminals or have suspicions farm crime has occurred.
"Even the smallest piece of information could assist police with an investigation and help reduce the rate of farm crime in Victoria," she said.
Victoria Police's Farm Crime Coordination Unit Acting Inspector Emma Bartel said they take farm crime very seriously.
"It's vital farmers come forward to report any crime and they should know we will investigate it fully. We understand the impact theft of livestock and equipment can have on farmers and their livelihoods," she said.
"We encourage people in rural areas to report any suspicious activity. The information they have might be the piece we need to hold perpetrators to account.
"We also urge farmers to take precautions - a simple measure like a sign on the fence warning would-be trespassers to stay off private property can go a long way to discouraging crime."
The public is also being encouraged to check the authenticity of livestock and second-hand farming equipment before purchasing.
Property theft and deception offences have decreased in the Greater Bendigo and Loddon LGAs over the last 12 months, while the Campaspe LGA has seen an increase in offences.
A limited number of free signs for farm gates warning would-be trespassers to stay off private property are available for collection at Bendigo and Axedale police stations as part of the Crime Stoppers Putting a Spotlight on Farm Crime campaign, which is being run in partnership with Victoria Police.
Victorian Farmers Federation President Emma Germano said rural crime can have a significant and harmful impact on hard-working communities.
"It not only hurts the victim's hip-pocket, but reduces how much they can spend locally, from cafes to hardware stores," she said.
Anyone needing immediate police assistance should call Triple Zero (000).
Anyone with information about farm thefts should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or make a confidential report online at crimestoppersvic.com.au.
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