A rural crime campaign to tackle rural rural crime across Northern Ireland was launched in Markethill this morning (Tuesday).
Farm theft is a prevalent problem across county Armagh and around the rural border areas in recent times with a number of high-profile incidents.
A fortnight ago – just four days after a county Armagh farmer had a stolen jeep finally returned – he was left counting the cost of another theft.
Recent months has seen a surge in machinery and livestock theft prompting the Rural Crime Partnership (RCP) to spearhead a campaign aimed at reducing crime in rural communities.
The Rural Crime Partnership which includes representatives from the Department of Justice (DoJ), Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), NFU Mutual (NFU) and Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFC), is working with Crimestoppers to encourage reporting and ask the public to give information anonymously about rural crime across Northern Ireland.
The campaign will feature outdoor advertising and a social media campaign,
Crime affecting rural communities can have a knock-on effect on all of us. Criminals can target isolated areas and hard-to-protect buildings. By appealing for more eyes and ears across the countryside, raising awareness of the signs of rural crime and urging the public to contact Crimestoppers anonymously, we can tackle those who seek to target the rural community in this way.
The Rural Crime Partnership brings together representatives from key organisations with a vested interest in tackling crime against our rural communities. The Partnership works together, to take forward recommendations and initiatives around preventing and combatting rural criminality. Adopting an approach which encourages information sharing amongst partners, the Partnership focuses on reducing and preventing rural crime, ensuring every opportunity is seized to maximise the effect and reach of crime prevention in rural locations. The campaign is supported by a number of local Polcing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSP).
Susan Brew, campaign manager for Crimestoppers in Northern Ireland said: “Crimestoppers is an independent charity and I would like to ask anyone with information about rural crime to ring 0800 555111 and be assured that they will remain completely anonymous – no-one will ever know you made the call.”
Speaking on behalf of the RCP, PSNI Superintendent Brian Kee, service lead for rural and wildlife crime said: “As part of our continuing work, the Rural Crime Partnership have been working very closely with Crimestoppers and very much welcomes the launch of this campaign which raises awareness of rural crime issues and encourages people to provide information anonymously. I would encourage people to come forward with information.
“I am acutely aware that rural crime has a significant impact on victims, and the economic losses caused by theft of property can have far reaching consequences for individuals, businesses and the economy. As a Police Service, we are also aware of the distinct set of circumstances facing a rural community, that’s why it is important to do whatever we can and to work with our partners to provide the best possible service.
“Information received from Crimestoppers will be combined with intelligence from other sources to build a more detailed picture of rural crime in Northern Ireland, driving further focused prevention, investigation and enforcement activity by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Rural Crime Partnership and our partners and rural communities.”
“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,” says UFU President Barclay Bell. “We understand the impact crime against the farming community has on farmers, their families and their businesses. That is why we welcome the launch of this campaign.”
As to practical advice, the UFU says there are simple and immediate steps farmers can take. “Don’t wait for crime to happen. 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,” says the UFU President adding that it was vital farmers report anyone acting suspiciously or any suspicious vehicles, to the PSNI on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The PSNI also offered trailer marking at the event in Markethill. Trailer marking is a free service. Trailers are stencilled with a unique number which makes it less attractive to thieves and helps Police quickly establish the legitimate owner of the vehicle. The trailer owner’s details and ID mark are recorded and held on a PSNI database which can then be checked if a trailer is seen in a location at a time that’s unusual.