Farmers are being called on to make use of a funding scheme to help them fit security devices to their machinery.
Stormont’s justice minister David Ford on Saturday announced an extension to a funding package that gives farmers across Northern Ireland access to a discount when purchasing a device to be fitted to a tractor.
The device, named TRACKER, emits signals that can be used to trace and recover the tractor if it is stolen.
A pilot initiative in parts of the Province is said to have protected over £1.7million worth of farm machinery.
Mr Ford said “This shows how the tangible results of partnership working can benefit our rural communities.”
He added: “I recognise that there are ongoing concerns about levels of agri-crime amongst the farming community, and these concerns are wider than just the theft of farm machinery. They range from livestock theft to food fraud, which can have an adverse impact on the agri–food sector.”
Mr Ford also encouraged farming communities “to play their part in protecting their businesses by reporting their suspicions or concerns about fraudulent activity”.
He said that this can be done by contacting the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Fraud Hotline on 080 8100 2716 (24 hours).
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “I welcome the fact this initiative is to be rolled out across Northern Ireland. Our rural communities play an essential role in the local economy. Thefts of farm machinery not only hamper a farmer’s ability to do their job but can cause significant upset, inconvenience and loss of income. Police understand this and we are eager to disrupt those who target farmers and others in the rural community.
He added: “We know that increased vigilance and security are key elements in denying criminals an opportunity of stealing machinery or equipment. Criminals are looking to exploit soft targets and the use of TRACKER and CESAR has been very successful in deterring and detecting them.
“Adding these devices means that equipment is easily identifiable, and recoverable if stolen. Indeed we have had a number of successes in recent months in recovering tractors that were stolen, but had tracking measures fitted.”
Mr Hamilton added: “Information from the community is also vital in helping us address rural crime. You know your own area best and if you notice something which does not look right, are aware of machinery moving at odd times or notice unusual attention being paid to livestock in fields, phone police.
“I would also ask anyone who is interested in learning more about protecting their property and their community or about Farm Watch, trailer marking or our text alert system to phone your local crime prevention officer or neighbourhood policing team on 101.”
The Department of Justice said in a press release: “This initiative is delivered by the Rural Crime Partnership, which consists of representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and NFU Mutual, and has been developed using findings from the PSNI’s Rural Crime Unit.
Farmers can register their interest and reserve the subsidised rate by calling NFU Mutual on 028 9081 8688. The line will be open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. until September 30.