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New weapon in rural crime fight to be trialled in Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon areas

A forensic marking device – to prevent and detect theft from farms – is to be given its pilot in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area.

It is the latest weapon which will be employed to combat the criminal gangs who prey on farms and rural communities.

It will be brought forward shortly by the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Policing and Community Safety Partnership.

Depending on its success, it could then be rolled out to other areas across Northern Ireland.

The availability of this latest technology was revealed in the Assembly by Justice Minister David Ford, who had been asked what strategy his Department had in place to address crime in rural areas.

And the revelation comes as the most recent available figures have shown that rural crime has reached its lowest level ever.

Mr Ford said his Department’s community safety strategy contained a commitment to make Northern Ireland, including rural communities, safer by reducing the opportunities to commit crime.

He said: “The Department of Justice works closely with the PSNI, NFU Mutual, the Ulster Farmers’ Union and DARD through the rural crime partnership to deliver on that commitment.

“The partnership receives detailed quarterly updates from the PSNI’s statistics branch on levels of agricultural and rural crime. That allows key stakeholders to continue to monitor crime trends and to allocate resources accordingly.

“I welcome the fact that agricultural-based crime has shown an overall downward trend since 2010-11, when 937 offences were recorded.

“At 626, the level in the 12 months from October 2014 to September 2015 is the lowest recorded.”

He said the work of the rural crime partnership had resulted in the development and delivery of a range of initiatives that aim to tackle rural crime, such as a funding package to encourage farmers in theft hotspots to fit security devices to their machinery.

Mr Ford added: “We will soon pilot, with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon PCSP, the use of a forensic marking scheme to help to prevent and detect theft from farms.

“I understand that the Newry, Mourne and Down PCSP has undertaken initiatives to address rural and agricultural crime, including the delivery of a freeze-branding initiative aimed at tackling livestock theft, the distribution of GuardCams to farms and homes in rural and isolated areas and trailer marking.”

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