Surge in farm theft, trespass

TASMANIAN farmers are being urged to take precautions when it comes to protecting their properties and assets with reports of an increase in trespassing and theft.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association president Ian Sauer said while cases of theft from rural properties were sometimes not openly discussed, farmers should report any thefts or suspicious activity to authorities including Tasmania Police or Crime Stoppers.

“There are two issues at the moment, farm theft happens quite regularly and unfortunately that’s a pain, but the other issue is trespassing and that’s happening all the time and it seems to be increasing,” he said. “We’ve got people out there going onto properties illegally and shooting deer or wallaby or wood hooking without permission. “There are reports of people cutting fences stealing the wood and leaving gates open. “It doesn’t sound much, but it can be a big issue.”

Mr Sauer said farmers should also be on the lookout for suspicious activity which could include strange cars driving onto their properties or in unusual remote areas.

“You need to get the number and report things like that,” he said. Mr Sauer said incidents of theft of items such as tools, pumps, fuel and stock add up across the industry to a significant cost. “We’re not getting as much chatter about livestock theft as we were a little while ago, now it’s more trespassing and stealing,” he said. “TFGA is now saying it doesn’t matter how small it is, just call the police because they’ll be able to pick up a pattern.”

Crime Stoppers chief executive officer David Higgins said one of the most important first steps farmers could take to help prevent illegal activities was to talk with their neighbours and share information. He said while more serious thefts of valuable equipment like motorbikes were generally reported, smaller items often went unreported. Mr Higgins said having strange people driving around a property without a valid reason is also something to look out for.

“I’ve heard of people coming across people driving on their property who then pretend they’re lost or looking for someone,” he said. “They’re probably poachers or wood hookers scoping out your place.”

Mr Higgins recommends people take photos of any suspicious vehicles in their area and make sure photos include the location details where possible and number plate details. Other precautions include locking things and removing keys from vehicles when practical, installing security cameras and sensor lights in high-risk areas and keeping farm dogs close to susceptible infrastructure.

A new online portal developed by Crime Stoppers is now making it easier for people, including those in rural areas to report suspicious activities.