Rise in farm theft builds case for dedicated crime squad

Farm crime continues to rise nearly two years since the Labor Government promised to crackdown on livestock and equipment theft from Victorian farms.

New data from the Crime Statistics Agency (CSA) has confirmed a 9 per cent increase in livestock stolen in the past 12 months.

And despite the ‘crackdown’ most crimes still go unsolved.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said it showed Labor had got its “specialised farm crime unit” wrong.

“Instead of appointing extra police dedicated to solving farm crime, Labor shuffled the deckchairs with a rebrand of the existing Agricultural Liaison Officers (AGLOs),” Mr Walsh said.

“Our police work hard with the resources they have to keep us safe, but Labor’s failure to appoint dedicated officers means rural crime’s getting worse – not better – and offenders are walking free.

“The Liberal Nationals have long supported farmers’ calls for a dedicated, rural crime squad with the time and resources needed to make sure criminals face the consequences.”

The Labor Government announced a “specialised farm crime unit” in September 2019, but instead of extra police dedicated to solving rural crime – as farmers had called for – Labor just rebranded the existing Agricultural Liaison Officers (AGLOs).

The new CSA data shows 257 livestock, worth more than $1.9 million, were stolen across the state in the 12 months to March this year – up from 234 the year before.

There were just four arrests meaning 82 per cent went unsolved. Cattle theft reached a 15-year high with 90 stolen in the year to March 2021.

“A lot of rural crime goes unreported because farmers and rural landholders just accept that it will be difficult to get investigators out to help them,” Mr Walsh said.

“It’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 Labor Government likes to snag a cheap headline but goes to ground when it fails to deliver.

“At a time when we’ve endured four lockdowns, rural crime has continued to rise, but the Labor Government still refuses to appoint the dedicated squad that’s needed to better protect our farmers.” 

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