Farmers continue to report an increasing number of thefts taking place on rural properties across Queensland. Alarming rates of on-farm theft are not only having a financial and personal impact, there is also the wider ripple effect to the agricultural sector through financial and productivity losses, insurance costs and availability, with the risk of theft making it almost impossible to protect farm assets. Theft is also eroding overall community wellbeing in rural towns.
In addition to stolen vehicles and machinery, livestock, firearms, tools and fuel, the theft of scrap metal and copper has been on the rise for some time with silos and substations in many regions becoming a target. Other unusual items including beehive thefts have been reported, with thieves going to great lengths to remove their item of interest such as removing irrigation doors and chopping batteries and cabling out of tractors. There are also reports of drones and other technology being used by offenders to identify and plan their next target.
For most farmers, their property doubles as a business and a home, and many people living in rural settings are now being forced to view their farms through the eyes of an offender to more effectively deter the potential theft of their livestock and property. Farmers are taking additional precautions where they can, but the reality is that it is impossible to fully protect all assets used to run a farming enterprise.
Sadly, increased farm theft is also taking a personal toll. We are hearing from farmers who are avoiding leaving their farm as much as they can to reduce the risk of their enterprise being targeted by offenders. This is resulting in an increase in social isolation for some, which is becoming detrimental to overall wellbeing, making farm theft yet another mental stressor for farmers.
Emerging AI technology, trackers and the like might be able to assist in addressing these issues in the future, but these solutions are currently prohibitively costly when applied to multiple farm assets. Farmers are improving security through available technology like surveillance cameras, and alarm and lighting systems. They are also changing their behaviour, being more proactive around how they lock up and secure equipment and keeping an eye out for their neighbours. Information sharing has proved useful in some communities in preventing theft occurrences and retrieving stolen goods.
As the debate continues regarding the overhauls required to the court system and offender penalties, one thing is for sure, rural crime is a whole of community problem and requires a whole of community response.
It is a basic human right to be able to feel safe in your home or business. QFF is in discussions with its members, relevant agencies, and stakeholders as to how we can work together to address this growing issue. I would encourage you all to make yourself aware of the rural policing and protection programs available to you in your community to ensure you are as prepared as you possibly can be. Some further information on how you can be prepared can be found here.