Delayed theft reports hurt investigation success

Delayed theft reports hurt investigation success


DESPITE the rising value of stock, fodder and fuel, there is evidence rural theft may be decreasing across SA.


DESPITE the rising value of stock, fodder and fuel, there is evidence rural theft may be decreasing across SA.

But SA Police is warning that rural crimes, particularly stock theft, can be difficult to investigate, due to delayed reporting.

Speaking on a SheepConnect webinar, Brevet Sergeant Jason Doig, Lucindale, said the biggest theft was generally of sheep as they were "more portable".

"We did see a little flurry of wool bales last year during the spike in value," he said.

He said other common items stolen were fuel, chainsaws and pumps.

Naracoorte operations sergeant Simon Haebich said there was often a relationship between stock theft and other rural thefts.

"It's not just stock that gets stolen," he said.

SAPOL field intelligence officer for the Limestone Coast and agriculture liaison Brevet Sergeant Simon Hurling said he had seen a steady decline in the number of livestock theft reported.

Sergeant Haebich said investigating livestock theft had many obstacles, particularly the lag in reporting.

"A lot of thefts are reported weeks or even months later," he said. "We realise that is the nature of the beast but the sooner police get involved, the better the chance of apprehending somebody."

Brevet Sergeant Doig said farmers could reduce risk or assist investigations by checking sheep regularly, having proof of ownership, keeping all gates and fences in repair and considering police checks of new farmhands.

He said in some successful investigations, it was a "disgruntled stockhand" or another person who knew the farm.

"They come back because they know the operation and know where stuff is," he said.

He said it was also the case that those in the industry had the biggest ability to "fence" the stolen stock.

"A criminal in Adelaide or Melbourne has no way of flipping stock for cash," he said.

Brevet Sergeant Doig said even if the discovery of stolen stock was delayed, it was still worth reporting.

BE PREPARED: SAPOL says timely reports will help with investigations of farm theft.

BE PREPARED: SAPOL says timely reports will help with investigations of farm theft.

"If we don't get the information, we don't know we have a problem in a particular area," he said.

PIRSA National Livestock Identification System extension officer Denice Rendell said good documentation could come in handy in the case of stock loss.

"Documentation is the bane of everyone's life but it is extremely useful when trying to document stock theft," she said.

She said each NLIS transfer should include the National Vendor Declaration number, while making note of details such as "Hereford-cross cows" instead of simply "cows" could help with identification.

Ms Rendell said making use of the brand register of Livestock SA was also a good idea, while if any stock is bought onto the property, notes should be made of those brands or earmarks.

She said rumen bolluses were an option to put through the herd at small numbers as these could not be removed unless through surgery or at slaughter and could be used to prove theft.

"If you've got high value animals, it could be money worth spending," she said.

She also recommended being at the site when a carrier is loading stock to confirm counts, to avoid later disputes, and for any agistment contracts to have good detail in writing, such as a natural death clause or feed specified.

Ms Rendell warned farmers not to buy any stock without appropriate registration.

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Machinery theft is also considered to be on the lower side for SA, according to the National Motor Theft Reduction Council.

Chief executive Geoff Hughes said SA had reported four tractors stolen across the state in the 12 months to March, out of 94 stolen nationally.

In the same period Vic reported 30, Qld 19 and there were 29 stolen in WA.

He said those three states accounted for about 80 per cent of all major vehicle equipment stolen.

Since 2015, SA has averaged about 26 thefts of plant or equipment, including backhoes, bulldozers, mowers and rollers, a year since 2015, with three-quarters of these stolen within an 80 kilometre radius of Adelaide.

Mr Hughes said statistics also showed two out of three stolen tractors were never recovered.

He said major equipment, such as headers, only accounted for about one in 25 of all vehicle theft but these were higher value vehicles.

"While the frequency of equipment theft is relatively low the cost of an incident can be high with a single item worth tens of thousands of dollars or more and the related impacts on lost productivity," he said.

Mr Hughes said there were difficulties in fully measuring the impact of these thefts with any accuracy as often they were not registered in the same way a passenger car would be.

Mr Hughes said one of the biggest issues with farm theft was the equipment was often left in paddocks, in clear view of the road.

He said the recommended best practice was to make sure they are secured centrally, preferably near the homestead, and not easily accessible from road edges.

Other considerations should be improving yard locks, installing GPS tracking in the most valuable vehicles and keeping detailed identification reports.

He said in one-in-five thefts to police there are no unique identification marks or serial numbers reported.

"At the volumes concerned, it is most likely the unrecovered vehicles are being sold to other farmers or farm contractors domestically," he said.

"It can be very difficult to dispense of (them) unless someone knows the deal they're getting is too good to be true."

  • Details: Contact 131 444 to report any theft or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 with information.
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