The first attempt in more than 20 years at understanding rural crime on a national scale has been launched by the University of New England's Centre for Rural Criminology.
The survey will seek to gain a better understanding of the climbing rate of rural crime from the perspective of farmers and landholders.
Centre co-director, Dr Kyle Mulrooney, said in order to combat farm crime, police and policymakers needed better information from those involved in farming who had key insights into the important issues.
"Increasing the capacity to fight farm crime is crucial," Dr Mulrooney said.
"This survey puts the farmers' voice front and centre, allowing us to gain a better understanding of the scope of the problem, as well as find out what measures might be taken by the Government, police, farmers and rural communities to reduce farm crime across Australia."
The Centre's 2023 Australian Farm Crime Survey will ask landholders to detail their experiences of rural crime and gather opinions about the effectiveness of crime prevention.
He said it was vital that a national approach was taken to farm crime.
"It would be very difficult to break it down to areas within states, depending on the response rate, but we will be able to see state-based trends," he said.
Surveys had been done in Victoria and NSW.
"The rest of the country is unaccounted for and if you talk to the heads of rural crime prevention teams the first thing they will say is that this is a national problem, its not just a problem for NSW, it's not just a problem for Victoria," he said.
"We know there are what the police call 'corridors', where cattle stolen in the NT make their way down through Queensland, to NSW and all over the place.
"It happens very quickly.
"This is a national problem that needs to be confronted nationally - but it's very difficult to confront it nationally, when we don't understand the scope of the problem."
Rural crime was vastly under-reported, he said.
The national survey follows the Centre's 2020 New South Wales Farm Crime Survey, the results of which Dr Mulrooney said had far-ranging impacts on policing of rural crime in the state.
"That was our starting point, we want our research to have real-world impact, which is sadly not the case when it gets buried in peer-reviewed journals," Dr Mulrooney said.
"From the outset, we considered that we were not going to waste farmers' time, they are busy enough."
He said the data informed the April 2021 Crime Stoppers campaign, "Draw the Line on Regional Crime."
The data also showed the rural environment was not conducive to crime prevention, because of the "low risk - high reward" aspects of stock and other theft.
"That's what got us onto smart tags, and agtech in general," he said.
The data also informed the NSW Rural Crime Prevention team, which is unique in Australia, he said.
"Out of that we were able to get data specific to the police, to improve policing in the state - one way we did that was looking at perceptions and engagement with this particular team," Dr Mulrooney said.
"Farmers that engaged with this team had great confidence in the policy overall, they had a much more positive view of police," he said.
'Most importantly, they were statistically much more likely to report crime."
Farmers knew they were talking to people who "walked the walk, not just talked the talk."
Dr Mulrooney said there was a great deal of information sharing, between police forces around the the country.
"In this national survey we ask questions around a dedicated rural policing team, expertise in farm crime prevention - we are hoping that kind of feedback nationally can feed into some policy and practice," he said.
The national survey will seek perspectives from landholders large and small, from across Australia.
The information will be used to build an understanding of landholder attitudes towards current policing and justice system responses to rural crime, which may eventually inform future crime prevention measures.
The survey is now available here: https://unesurveys.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_barMN4RDkQtl0O2
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