Justice Minister David Ford and Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill have met to discuss progress in the fight against rural crime.

The meeting is part of their ongoing commitment to work together to tackle rural crime, ensuring that resources are targeted for the benefit of rural communities. The Ministers discussed the achievements of the Rural Crime Unit to date and areas for future co-operation between their Departments.

Justice Minister David Ford said: “The Rural Crime Unit is starting to deliver on the ground, turning the tide against criminals operating in vulnerable, often isolated rural communities. While agri-crime accounts for just over 2% of all burglary, thefts and robbery, we are all aware of the disproportionate impact that rural crime has on the livelihoods of farmers. Whether this is directly through the theft of the equipment they rely on to make a living, or on a wider scale through the activity of illegal slaughterhouses.

“Just recently, the Unit provided information on the theft of machinery in E and F policing districts and this enabled funding to be targeted towards the fitting of discounted tracker devices to a range of valuable farm equipment. I welcome the fact that over £1.7million worth of machinery in E and F district has been fitted with additional security as a result of this initiative. Fighting rural crime is a concern right across the Executive, and I know that the partners involved in the Rural Crime Unit are already working to consider how they can tackle other issues such as livestock theft and fraud.”

Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill said: “I very much welcome the work that the Rural Crime Unit is doing to help tackle rural crime. The financial and emotional impact that crimes such as livestock theft and the theft of farm equipment have on the farming community is significant and continue to be of major concern.

“It is essential therefore that we continue to operate a joined up approach in the fight against rural crime and the Rural Crime Unit is an excellent example of partnership working. Reducing levels of rural crime is a key priority of mine and my Department will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice, the PSNI and other partners in seeking to raise awareness and reduce levels of agri-crime.”