Rural crime: Stock theft has cost farmers millions already this year

Detective Sergeant Damian Nott and Detective Senior Constable Paul Clancy. Photo: NSW POLICE
Detective Sergeant Damian Nott and Detective Senior Constable Paul Clancy. Photo: NSW POLICE

IN JUST six months, more than 10,000 head of stock worth at least $2.5 million have been stolen, but NSW Police say the crime is under-reported.

Since the NSW Police force established its Rural Crime Prevention Team in 2018 it has worked to stamp out offences across regional areas of the state.

And while the team's officers in Bathurst, Dubbo, Mudgee, Orange and Parkes have had some huge successes, there's still a long way to go.

From January to June this year 10,073 head of cattle, sheep and goats were stolen in 194 separate stock theft incidents, State Rural Crime Co-ordinator Detective Inspector said.

While this is a decrease of three percent on the same period in 2019, the cattle and sheep theft alone represents a loss of more than $2.5 million.

"The number of sheep reported stolen (8665) is 10 per cent less compared to the same period last year (9609)," Det Insp Whiteside said.

Detective Senior Constables Adam MacDougall (on stairs) (Orana Mid-Western PD, Mudgee) and Robert Newman (Chifley PD, Bathurst). Photo: NSW POLICE

Detective Senior Constables Adam MacDougall (on stairs) (Orana Mid-Western PD, Mudgee) and Robert Newman (Chifley PD, Bathurst). Photo: NSW POLICE

"The number of cattle reported stolen during this period (730) is six per cent higher compared to the same period in 2019 (686).

Also, 678 goats have been stolen, but officers believe many more have been taken but not reported to police.

Good livestock market prices, favourable seasonal conditions and increased feed are contributing factors to the stock theft.

"Criminals often work on a risk versus reward mentality," Det Insp Whiteside said.

"Currently, the reward, or price of commodity, is at record high levels.

"The risk can be seen as lower due to the seasonal conditions encouraging the offenders to believe they may not need to sell the stolen livestock in the near future to achieve the reward. They can use them to grow wool, breed the stock, etc and take advantage of the seasonal conditions."

In the past five years, from 2015 to 2019, an estimated $18m worth of cattle and sheep have been reported stolen in NSW.

"This is a conservative estimate of the financial loss to primary producers within NSW. This value does not include the stud stock, loss of breeding potential and animal bi-product," Det Insp Whiteside said.

Time to 'target harden' your property

Det Insp Whiteside said a range of people are stealing stock, including farmers and criminals.

"To handle stock you've got to have some experience in that area ... you need to know what you're doing," he said.

He urged people to be vigilant and "target harden" their property.

"Be aware of what is going on in your neck of the woods and take notice of things that are out of place," he said.

"Implement security measures such as: Photograph your stock, consider capturing DNA, stock proof your fences on a regular basis, ensure your livestock can be identified (NLIS tags, brand, ear mark, etc), conduct regular monitoring of your stock and ensure your management records are accurate and current."

Det Insp Whiteside said thieves do not always use traditional stock crates to move animals.

"Stock can be transported in horse floats, tippers, pantech trucks and caravans," he said.

"This is how criminals lower the risk as people are not suspicious of these types of vehicles when it comes to stock theft."

Det Insp Whiteside urged anyone who witnesses a suspicious vehicle to take a photo of it with their phone and pass on to police. A photo should only be taken if safe to do so.

If you think something is suspicious, contact your local police or the Rural Crime Prevention Team or find out where they are located.

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This story Millions lost with 10,000 head of stock stolen by thieves first appeared on Lithgow Mercury.