9 ways to prevent agricultural crime on your farm

Following a PSNI report showing that last October had 66 incidents of agricultural crime in Northern Ireland – 20% higher than any other month in 2016 – the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has advised farmers to take steps to prevent agricultural crime in their areas.

However, the following recommendations are just as relevant regardless of region, whether north or south.

According to the UFU, the theft of tools and ATV/Quads remain the most common items stolen, while machinery, jeeps, livestock and trailers are also heavily targeted.

Divided up under nine headings, the farmers’ group recommends the following procedures to prevent, deter and reduce farm theft and rural crime.

1. Access to property

The group advises to restrict access to your yard – the fewer ways in the better – and to use locked gates or security posts if practical.

2. Boundaries

Fencing, hedges and walls should be robust, well maintained and regularly checked, the union says. Farmers are advised to find out about alarms and the latest technology, such as point-to-point electronic beams, to protect the perimeter of your property.

3. Lighting

Good lighting helps to ensure that a farmyard is both safe and secure, deterring would-be trespassers.

4. Vehicles

The association stresses to farmers to always remove keys and lock vehicles. People are urged to secure or immobilise vehicles, plant, trailers and equipment when not in use.

Items of value are to be kept in securely-locked sheds, out of sight. Police operate a trailer marking scheme in the North, which is free of charge, the union says.

Physically secure ATVs using heavy duty chains and padlocks or block in with other equipment so it cannot be pushed away.

Farmers are told to consider more sophisticated options also – such as Tracker, CESAR marking systems and immobilisers – which can help prevent theft and help police retrieve and return recovered items.

5. Tools

Farmers should lock away hand tools when not in use, not only to prevent theft but also so they cannot be used by the thief against one’s own property.

Engraving items with your house number and postcode or using CESAR (Co-operative European System for Advanced information Redistribution) are also recommended options.

6. Alarms/CCTV

Rural residents are recommended to consider fitting alarms and installing a CCTV system. It is advised to ensure the correct CCTV signage is placed round the perimeter of your property. Signs can be a great deterrent in themselves, the organisation says.

7. Record items

Keep an inventory of items, including all serial numbers, makes, models and any distinctive damage or marks. Photographing items is also a good idea.

8. Livestock

Regularly check fields where stock are grazing. Keep gates (including yard gates) locked with high-standard closed shackle locks and ensure that all fixing bolts cannot be removed easily.

Invert or cap gate hinges to prevent gates being lifted off to provide access. Take photographs of valuable animals with brand and ear tags clearly visible.

9. Farm Watch

If you are in Northern Ireland, inquire with the PSNI about joining your local farm watch scheme for up-to-date crime prevention advice, signage and inclusion in a text alert service. For farmers in the Republic of Ireland, community alert services should be looked into.

All farmers are urged to report any suspicious activity, farm theft or agricultural crime.