The issue of agricultural crime is a far bigger issue than official Garda statistics would suggest, according to Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president Patirick Kent.

Kent’s comments follow the publication of the third, and final, report from the organisation’s National Agricultural Crime Survey – conducted in conjunction with Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).

The survey was devised by Dr. Kathleen Moore Walsh, a lecturer in Law and Criminology, and Louise Walsh, a lecturer in Accounting and Finance, both from WIT. The study examines crimes that occur solely on farms or relating to farming activities.

The final report’s findings indicate that 45% of respondents did not report instances of agricultural crime to the Gardai.

According to the report, the reasons given for choosing not to report a crime include:
  • “Waste of time,” “no point” and/or “too much hassle”;
  • No action taken by Gardai when a previous theft incident(s) was reported;
  • No prosecution arose from reported previous theft incident(s);
  •  Asset(s) previously reported stolen were not recovered;
  • Unsure when one’s asset(s) was stolen;
  • Gardai would be unlikely to trace the thief and/or the stolen assets;
  • Believed value and/or quantity of asset(s) stolen was not significant enough to warrant reporting;
  • Knew the person(s) involved in the theft;
  • Farmer dealt with the theft him/herself;
  • Fear of retribution;
  • Garda station closed (either permanently or at the time when wanted to report the theft incident); and
  • No local Garda with knowledge of the area and/or community.

Commenting on the report, Kent said: “We now know that two thirds of Irish farming families have been affected by crime relating to their farming enterprise and that many in rural Ireland have little confidence in how An Garda Siochana and the judicial system are tackling the issue.

“The general perception is that reporting crime is futile; there are inadequate resources to get convictions and, even when convictions are secured, repeat offenders are getting off far too lightly.”

Also Read: Poll: Are Gardai under-resourced in the fight against rural crime?

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock also spoke on the issue, noting: “The ICSA has provided proof that agricultural crime is hitting farmers’ pockets at a time when most are struggling to make ends meet at all.

Financially it’s wreaking havoc, not to mention the stress and emotional impact these crimes have.

“We cannot accept crime as part and parcel of life in rural Ireland. As a result of the startling findings of the survey, the ICSA is committed to bringing the issue of rural crime to the top of the political agenda,” the chairman said.

“The ICSA would encourage farmers to report all instances of crime to the Gardai even if they cannot see any immediate benefit from doing so.

“The figures revealed in this crime survey need to reflected in official Garda statistics so the scale of the problem can be recognised and appropriate resources put in place,” Sherlock stressed.

According to the report’s data, the level of recovery of stolen assets is very low, standing at 8%. Also, respondents recorded that less assets were recovered ‘by Gardai’ – with a statistic of 3% – than by ‘other than Gardai’ – which has a figure of 5%.

Perhaps one of the most significant reasons recorded for not reporting an agricultural crime incident to Gardai centred on the farmer dealing with the crime themselves, the ICSA says.

Sherlock added: “We are witnessing the whole fabric of rural society being decimated with farmers feeling more and more isolated and side-lined.

“Nobody should have to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety as a result of feeling under siege due to lack of Garda resources. Worse still is that farmers are expected to fund expensive deterrents such as electric gates and security cameras.

The ordinary decent people of rural Ireland are outraged that criminals seem to be acting with impunity. Even where insurance is in place, premiums are always at risk of rising significantly as a result of this type of crime.

“The report is hugely important as determining the costs of agricultural crime provides the justification for spending scarce resources on tackling the issue,” the rural affairs chairman concluded.