Crime initiative puts farmers on the watch for rural thieves

Farmers have been urged to sign up to a new rural crime watch initiative to tackle the issue in Northern Ireland’s worst hit county.

In 2016, in Co. Antrim alone the cost of rural crime was a staggering £903,884.

The latest NFU figures showed that across the region the cost of rural crime in Northern Ireland hit farms to the tune of £2.5 million the same year.

The scheme – called Farm Watch – will see the Mid and East Antrim’s Community Safety Partnership, the PSNI and Ulster Farmers’ Union, work together to “protect the livelihoods” of rural families.

The initiative is designed to make it easier for farmers to share snippets of information which may build a bigger picture of how the thieves are operating.

PCSP (Policing and Community Safety Partnerships) Chairman Councillor Brian Collins said: “With almost 2,000 farm-related businesses across the borough, we have a significant rural community to protect. This partnership is extremely welcome to help maintain those livelihoods that not only prop up our economy, but make up our fantastic communities here in Mid and East Antrim.

Farm Watch will see the rural farming community working closely with the council, the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs, the Department of Justice and police. This collaborative working approach helps us build stronger, safer communities.

“This Farm Watch scheme is to prevent and detect crime. Sharing information and encouraging vigilance is key to making people feel safer in their homes and businesses.

Bigger picture

“I would encourage everyone to sign up to Farm Watch, and to the text alert service, and to feel confident that you can report anything that you think may be suspicious to the police. Through the Farm Watch scheme, the police will also share any information they can with you. It may only seem like a small bit of information but it may well be part of a bigger picture.”

Farmers who sign up to the scheme will be provided with signage to put up around their property, and will also receive vehicle security marking, safety advice and contact numbers to report crime or suspicious activity.

The Farm Watch initiative hopes to tackle rural crime

Chief Inspector Stephen Humphries said: “It is important that we all work together to make the countryside safer for everyone. Preventing crime and being switched on to crime prevention will help to protect your community and a farmer’s livelihood.

“Don’t make life easy for the criminals. Reporting promptly to the police any activity that raises your suspicions is a good way to initiate an investigation and will help to deter criminals and reduce crime in your area.

“Many farms, by their nature, are in isolated areas of the countryside and the police are urging rural communities to work with them, and together, to prevent crime and deter. It is important that we all work together to make the countryside safer for everyone.

“Farm Watch is wonderful initiative and I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved. By working together, we can help stamp out rural crime.”