Rural crime tackled

By Country News

A Victorian Liberal government will establish a new Livestock and Rural Crime Squad to specialise in dealing with rural crime, including farm and livestock theft.

The dedicated squad of 20 new specialist rural crime investigators will be established with Victoria Police in areas that are hardest hit, Liberal candidate for Shepparton Cheryl Hammer said.

The 20 new specialist roles will boost dedicated rural crime police numbers by 40percent.

‘‘Stock theft is becoming a huge business for criminals and it’s hurting hard-working families on the land,’’ Ms Hammer said.

Instances of stock theft rose 40percent last year and between April 2017 and March this year, there were 232 instances of ‘burglary/break and enter’ and ‘theft’ offences recorded where livestock were stolen.

Just 10 of these crimes resulted in an arrest or summons.

‘‘This is a statewide problem with police in rural areas agreeing they need more resources to tackle farm theft and crime,’’ Ms Hammer said.

The Livestock and Rural Crime Squad will be based throughout regional Victoria, ensuring unit members will be working in the rural communities they will be protecting.

These 20 new investigation positions will merge with the existing Livestock and Farm Crime Specialist Group and the 48 agricultural liaison officers to create the new Livestock and Rural Crime Squad.

‘‘I am part of a farming family and I know first-hand how farm theft and crime can impact on our farmers and their operations,’’ Ms Hammer said.

‘‘Not only is it a financial blow to families, but it causes untold stress and anxiety to the victims of this type of crime.’’