Riverina farmers set to benefit from new travelling rural and regional crime campaign

Picture: File
Picture: File

A NEW police-led campaign has the safety of the region's farmers in its sights as officers crack down on rural crime.

The travelling Regional Crime Campaign is set to educate rural communities on how to deter or prevent crimes in their area, with an extra push on the importance of reporting illegal activity.

NSW Farmers Wagga district branch chairman Alan Brown said the focus on rural crime was timely given recent events in the Riverina.

"It's been brought into focus with the theft of guns in Oura over the weekend," he said.

"They were stored correctly but the thieves still got a hold of the keys to the safe."

Mr Brown said the incident was too close to home, urging people to stay vigilant in reporting suspicious activity.

"It's so difficult to police, we need to spread the word so I hope a campaign like this will do just that," he said.

"Everyone in the community needs to be on board and on top of it for us to start seeing some changes.

"we don't need that nonsense here."

Crime Stoppers is working with the NSW Police Force Rural Crime Prevention Team and the Police Transport and Public Safety Command on the campaign across a range of major crime areas including stock theft, marine theft and poaching.

The recent NSW Farmers Survey created by the University of New England's Centre for Rural Criminology heard the concerns of those living on properties in rural and regional communities, including 10 responses from the Wagga postcode alone.

The survey found that more than 80 per cent of the state's farmers reported being a victim of crime, with more than 76 per cent falling victim on more than two occasions, and more than 23 per cent experiencing crime more than seven times.

The Centre's Co-Director Kyle Mulrooney said livestock theft was one of the most common crimes crippling the industry.

"In a way it's the quintessential rural crime," he said.

"But rural crime across the board is this perfect storm criminally speaking, it has a low risk and a high reward.

"There are very few eyes in a paddock to see what's happening and less security overall, with $2000 basically walking around on four legs, so it's considered an 'easy' crime."

Dr Mulrooney said initiatives like the regional crime campaign were valuable in raising awareness on the issue.

"We know generally speaking that farmers have a low confidence in the police, they think that nothing can be done because they don't check stock for weeks or months at a time," he said.

"But there is hope from seeing the efforts of the Rural Crime Prevention Team and having actual contact with police that those attitudes will change and people will start to have a greater trust and confidence in their work."

Regional crime can affect an individual's finances and safety directly but can also have a more widespread impact on the prosperity of the town and its people.

In regional areas, the perception of a community, its safety, people and economic situation can affect tourism, impact on its attraction of high-quality health professionals or teachers and other essential service providers.

The crimes also have a flow-on effect, impacting pricing, distribution, and availability of produce everywhere.

Under the new campaign, the message to the NSW community is to provide 'any information on any crime anytime'.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott urged regional residents to report any piece of information - no matter how small - to Crime Stoppers and police.

"Our farmers have had a shocking few years with drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and floods - adding victim-of-crime to the mix is reprehensible," he said.

"We're calling on the NSW community to report any information on any crime anytime. If you know something, say something.

"We've seen firsthand the resilience of our farmers, but I draw the line on regional crime."

The campaign will run state-wide for a 12-month period, with Crime Stoppers visiting and engaging with regional communities in an effort to help reduce crime and increase reporting.

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