Farmers reminded to be aware of thieves targeting rural properties

By Liz Mellino

For the next six weeks the News is working alongside Victoria Police to promote the Community Safety Network.

Shepparton has been selected as one of six towns for the second year of the program, a partnership between the Victorian community, Victoria police, the government, Crime Stoppers Victoria and Neighbourhood Watch.

Four topics have been identified by the project, rural burglaries, theft from motor vehicles, firearm storage and tradie tool theft, and each of these will be covered in a story published in Friday’s edition of the News.

Ross Harmer knows all to well the impact of rural burglaries.

The Dookie farmer has lived in the area for 60 years and has been running his cereal and stock farm for the past 40.

During this time Mr Harmer's property has been targeted on a number of occasions, with thieves stealing fuel and even the wheels off an antique machine.

"Dookie is fairly good, we do look out for each other and we watch out for vehicles and people that have been suspicious ... but we still get targeted," he said.

Learning from experience Mr Harmer said he and other farmers in the area work hard to secure their properties, ensuring machinery is stored out of sight, gates are kept padlocked and a vehicle is kept parked in the driveway at all times.

Communicating with police was also a priority for Mr Harmer, who has maintained regular contact with the officer in charge of the Dookie police station, Leading Senior Constable Simon Hutchings.

Leading Sen Const Hutchings has worked at the single-officer station for more than two years and in that time has been the point of contact for the Dookie township and surrounding areas.

While his daily tasks include attending crime scenes, family violence incidents, traffic enforcement and community engagement, he said investigating rural burglaries and thefts was high on the list.

"Unfortunately this day and age it seems to be a common theme around rural areas that farms are targets for thefts and burglaries," he said.

"And a lot of times they’re fairly easy too because the farmers are out or there is no-one home, there is a lot of equipment lying around or keys in the ignition of vehicles, which is a problem."

Leading Sen Const Hutchings said some thieves target rural properties because of their isolated locations and open land.

He said opportunistic offenders would often look for unlocked vehicles, trailers and assorted equipment.

The theft of firearms is also an issue in rural areas. 

"These farmers have hundreds of thousands of dollars of machinery lying around, which can create an opportunity for thieves to attend at these properties and help themselves — and it is often too easy for them to do so," Leading Sen Const Hutchings said.

While theft from rural properties is common, Leading Sen Const Hutchings said there were a number of things farmers could do to deter thieves, including installing CCTV cameras, ensuring properties were locked and valuables were kept out of sight.

He reminded locals to maintain contact with police and inform them of anything out of the ordinary.

"If you see anything suspicious take note and get in touch with police," Leading Sen Const Hutchings said.

More about the push to reduce rural burglaries

Ardmona farmer urges others to be aware of rural burglaries

Shepparton inspector working for the community