WIMMERA farmers are urged to be vigilant with thefts from farms at a 10-year high.
Crime Statistics Agency data has revealed that $5.74 million worth of livestock, tools and equipment have been reported stolen by farmers across the state over the past 12 months.
The biggest category of stolen property in the past financial year was livestock, with $2.07 million worth reported. This was a significant increase compared to the previous financial year’s total of $1.18 million.
Sheep were the most stolen type of livestock at $1.36 million, which was an increase from the 2016-17 total of $799,519.
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke, of Murra Warra, encouraged farmers to report all thefts to police.
“The general rule is that the agriculture community is fairly trusting. We’re on very sparse properties and because of that, we have blocks of land that aren’t visited very often,” he said.
“It’s sometimes hard to know, especially with sheep, what is there and how much there is.
“Just like tradespeople in town who get their tools stolen from their utes, replacing items like that is very costly. However, tools on farms are of course usually in sheds and I would encourage farmers to lock them up when they aren’t using them.”
Marshall Rodda, of Tarranyurk, runs a 2000 hectare mixed cropping farm with 800 breeding ewes.
He said he had recently considered installing security cameras at his property.
“It’s a big concern and it’s an issue that seems to be getting more prevalent. Although I haven’t really had anything stolen, it’s always a possibility. I have a lot of staff, but they can’t be everywhere at once,” he said.
“A lot of our properties are locked when we’re not using them, but you can’t help by leave big machinery out in the paddock overnight.
“I recently put signs up on the fences of some of the paddocks with my contact details. That way when GWMWater or Powercor needs to inspect something they can call me and I don’t think someone else has been on the farm that shouldn’t be.”
A Grampians region police officer said criminals were finding it easier to steal in rural areas.
“Farmers now have to adjust to the changing world. These thieves have cars, they can drive up into your paddock, get into your shed and take what they please if you leave it unlocked,” they said.
“They might not notice for months. If a $1000 chainsaw gets stolen from your shed a lot of people might not notice it’s gone until you go to cut down a tree.”