As the nights draw in the Ulster Farmers Union and NFU Mutual are urging farmers to review security arrangements to protect against theft.
Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, Barclay Bell said; “Rural crime happens all year round, but with the evenings getting darker there is now more opportunity for thieves. Farmers are already aware of this important issue but we are urging them to be extra vigilant and to take those extra simple steps to ensure their livestock, machinery and equipment is protected.”
Several UFU members in the Ballymoney area have been recent victims of crime. These incidents included the theft of a variety of portable items such as power tools, quads, cattle drench and generators. In some cases thieves used tools taken from insecure outbuildings to break into secure areas. It is thought that most of these thefts took place at night and it seems the thieves were selective in the items taken.
“It is undeniable that rural crime has a significant impact on farm businesses and the wider local community. Victims are left feeling vulnerable and demoralised and it is an issue that must be tackled. It’s not just opportunistic crime that is causing us concern”, said Mr Bell.
There are a number of simple things farmers can do to protect their livestock, machinery and equipment. These include reporting all incidences of theft and any suspicious behaviour to the PSNI; ensuring premises are well lit; and gates and doors are securely locked. “I would also encourage farmers to make use of their local PSNI Crime Prevention Officer, who can help to identify ways to protect property, livestock, machinery and equipment,” said Mr Bell, adding that the UFU also offer a range of security related deals to members such as: 20% off the Cesar datatag; 15% off Tracker unit and installation; 10% discount on the Block Stem security device; and discounts on GuardCam and Mercury Solutions CCTV.
Martin Malone, NFU Mutual Regional Manager for Northern Ireland, said; “As a mutual organisation owned by, and run for our members, we’re doing everything we can to reduce the devastating impact of crime in the countryside.
“To this end we’re working closely with the Business Crime Partnership which has been set up to tackle business crime in Northern Ireland. A key part of the initiative is the new Rural Crime Unit in the PSNI – a partnership between the Department of Justice, NFU Mutual, the PSNI – for which we have provided substantial funding to enable it to work effectively.”
Commenting on behalf of the PSNI Superintendent Brian Kee said: “We understand the impact that any type of crime has on families and communities. We also appreciate the human impact that crime against the farming community has on farmers, their families, farm workers, their business and the wider rural community.
“It is important that everyone takes the simple crime prevention steps that can reduce the chances of becoming a victim of crime. Specifically, this means locking gates, sheds and outbuildings and investing in some security equipment like CCTV or security lighting.” Superintendent Kee concluded: “Please also look out for neighbours and report any suspicious activity immediately to police.”
As to practical advice, Barclay Bell said there were simple and immediate steps farmers could take now. “Don’t wait for crime to happen before taking action. Have a look around your premises, and try to do so with a thief’s eye, looking for vulnerable spots and areas in permanent darkness. This could help make your property less appealing to a thief,” he said, echoing Superintendent Kee’s advice that if farmers see suspicious behaviour or suspicious vehicles, they should contact the PSNI as soon as possible on 101 or Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.