An increase in police numbers are necessary to address "alleged increase" in farm crime activity, according to one Fleurieu farmer, who says the government needs to action a plan to encourage more public servants to rural areas.
Mount Compass dairyfarmer and former state politician Robert Brokenshire, who once served as Police, Correctional Services and Emergency Services Minister, said he had seen an alleged increase in crime activity on community pages social media pages.
"When an economy is tight and you've got a farm where it's hard to keep an eye on everything there, it seems like an invitation for people to steal," he said.
"But it seems like these incidents often go unreported.
"Police can't get the statistics if we don't report and police numbers only increase is statistics stack up and indicate more resourcing is needed."
This comes as Crime Stoppers SA and SA Police have teamed up to put a spotlight on farm crime this month, targeting thieves focused on isolated and vulnerable farming properties across the South East region during the upcoming holiday season.
Crime Stoppers SA chief executive officer Nigel Smart today launched the campaign that encourages rural property owners and business to think about how they can prevent theft of livestock, tools, machinery and fuel.
"We know as many as four out of five interstate farmers say they've experienced some type of farm crime in their lifetime and South Australian farmers are likely to share similar experiences of repeated victimisation," he said.
"Trespassing, illegal shooting and hunting, burglary and theft are the most common crimes faced by those living on regional properties and, with plenty of people across the region planning to go away for the holiday season, we want to work with police and the community to make it as hard as possible for opportunistic thieves."
Limestone Coast Officer in Charge Superintendent Cheryl Brown said it was important to report incidents of rural crime because it allowed police to understand the true extent of farm crime and specific areas targeted by thieves.
"Rural properties become prime targets for criminals over the holidays because they're more isolated than usual and have fewer people about - and opportunistic criminals will exploit that where they can," Supt Brown said.
"We want landowners to understand how they can better protect their properties, and report crimes and suspicious behaviour so we have a more accurate understanding of areas being targeted and what types of property are being stolen.
"Patterns of offending suggest a high level of planning and organisation by a small group of repeat offenders who are probably responsible for a significant amount of the higher value losses in terms of livestock and farm equipment."
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, crime in rural areas is increasing, with rural and regional crime research finding crime rates are greatest in highly accessible areas where properties tend to experience theft of farm machinery, vehicles or tools, or burglary; or very remote areas, where properties experience the highest levels of livestock theft, illegal hunting and fishing, theft of materials, and illegal dumping of waste.
While the impact of farm crime is significant for the broader region and SA's economy, it also brings devastating financial, psychological and physical impacts on farmers, landowners and rural communities, according to Mr Smart.
"In coming months we plan to hold a series of free information sessions with local police to encourage farmers to adopt crime-prevention measures best suited for a regional setting," he said.
"It's important for farmers to accurately record livestock identification, remove keys from machinery, keep photos of valuable stock or other commonly stolen items to help with identifying them and install quality locking devices on gates, sheds, and equipment where possible."
Interstate, initiatives like rural and stock crime squads, farm crime liaison officers and rural crime investigators are commonplace, which Mr Brokenshire believes could be implemented in SA.
"The model is there and it wouldn't be used if it wasn't working, but we need the manpower," he said.
"Task forces are a great way of using limited resources to focus on crime hotspots - they use task forces for traffic blitzes and the same thing could occur for a rural task force to focus on hotspots in regional areas.
"The other thing that I think worked pretty well, but it seems to have been dropped off is rural watch, which might need to be modernised to bring it back.
"The intent of rural watch where police officers engaged regularly with community and community engaged with police officers, learning about law and order in their area was of great benefit and build rapport - many people have little contact with police these days."
Mr Brokenshire said he believed police officers at one and two person stations in rural areas were under high pressure and this meant rural crime squads and task forces were not always feasible.
"Local police officers are expected to do dual role in general placing work and traffic policing," he said.
"That's a big expectation for them as their areas grow and we know regional centres are growing, but we're not seeing the police increase to keep up with it.
"Often there are long vacancy lists for police in rural areas but it's the same for other public servants as well.
"It's a whole of government challenge to get police, doctors, childcare and the required public servants in the country - it needs to be assessed then a plan put in place."