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Mixed reaction to rural crime squad

State Government measures to tackle farm crime have attracted a less than a luke-warm response from Member for Lowan Emma Kealy.

Ms Kealy said government moves fell well short of what was required to crack down on the theft of livestock and farm equipment.

She said despite Premier Daniel Andrews claiming a new Farm Crime Co-ordination Unit creating 70 new positions, all the move did was rebrand  existing Agricultural Liaison Officer, AGLO, roles.

“In reality it has offered no additional resources,” she said.

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Ms Kealy said before the 2018 State Election, the Liberal-Nationals committed to establishing a specialist rural crime unit with an additional 20 officers dedicated to solving rural crimes.

“As a country MP I hear first-hand just how much devastation stock theft causes in our rural communities. I have had local farmers raise concerns and call for a dedicated rural crime unit,” she said.

“Local police and AGLOs are doing the best they can with the resources they have, but they are having to combine rural crime investigations with their other duties. 

“It’s clear they need more support given the instances of rural crime taking place across Victoria and particularly here in western Victoria.”

The State Government announced late last month it was working with Victoria Police to create a specialised unit to target crimes that included livestock and equipment theft.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville joined Victoria Police and the Victorian Farmers Federation to announce the creation of the Farm Crime Co-ordination Unit.

Inspector Karl Curra will oversee a team of more than 70 new Farm Crime Liaison Officers, previously Agricultural Liaison Officers and additional administrative and coordination support. 

The team’s job will be to provide a dedicated response to target farm crime.

The move followed a Victorian Police Capability Department Capability Impact Assessment.

The project will also aim to increase Victoria Police’s ability to respond to the changing nature of crime in rural communities.

Significant impact

Ms Neville said while farm crime contributed less than one percent of Victorian offences, it had a significant impact on rural and regional communities – particularly the theft of tools, livestock and firearms.

She said latest crime statistics showed in the year to March 30, 2019, almost 3600 farm-related thefts were recorded with power tools, tools, livestock, and electrical appliances among top items stolen. “We take this type of offending very seriously – the theft of equipment or livestock can have a huge operational impact on our farmers, on top of the financial burden,” she said.

“The new Farm Crime Co-ordination Unit will help centralise Victoria Police’s response to farm crime, while also ensuring the continued presence of Farm Crime Liaison Officers across the state.” 

But Ms Kealy agreed with Nationals leader Peter Walsh in suggesting ‘the devil was in the detail’.

“A lot of rural crime went unreported because country people accepted that it will be difficult to get investigators out to help them,” she said.

“That’s a direct result of there being too few frontline police dedicated to solving rural crime and to provide an active and visible police presence in the community.”

The entire October 9, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!