A force for farmers

By Morgan Dyer

Farmers across the Goulburn Valley can focus on doing what they do best thanks to a partnership between the Victorian Government and Victoria Police that will focus on combating farm crime.

The new Farm Crime Co-ordination Unit will have a team of more than 70 farm crime liaison officers who will target rural thefts — including livestock and equipment — by monitoring crime trends, developing intelligence, providing advice to farmers and working with local police.

More than 3600 farm-related thefts were recorded in the year to March 30, with power tools, other tools, livestock and electrical appliances among the top items stolen.

However, the announcement has come under intense scrutiny, with Nationals leader Peter Walsh urging people to look closely at the details.

“The Andrews Labor Government is trying to dress today’s announcement up as 70 new positions, but in reality there won’t be any more boots on the ground in frontline roles to protect our farmers and their properties,” Mr Walsh said.

“Victoria’s existing agricultural liaison officers do the best they can to tackle rural crime but they need more support."

These officers were previously employed part-time to tackle farm crime but also had various other roles.

“Without a commitment from the government for new frontline roles and a dedicated, specialist rural crime unit, this is just Labor shuffling the deck chairs,” Mr Walsh said.

However, Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville insists the officers are brand new and will be working full-time.

“This isn’t ‘changing job titles’ — it’s creating an entirely new dedicated unit, including central co-ordination and tasking of the FCLOs to crack down on the increasing rates of farm crime in Victoria,” Ms Neville said.

“We’re working with Victoria Police to ensure our FCLOs can provide strategic, co-ordinated support to our regional communities when it’s needed.

“The FCLOs have specific skills and knowledge around farming and the agriculture sector and the Farm Crime Co-ordination Unit will further develop, produce and regularly deliver ongoing training to the wider FCLOs on modern farming practices and emerging farm crime intelligence.”

According to the government, the officers have arrived in the Shepparton region and are already at work combating farm crime.