‘OUR HOMES EASY PREY’
FARMERS across the region no longer feel safe in their homes.
It comes after a spate of thefts on farms across Lockington, Bamawm and Nanneella, including last week’s aggravated burglary in Bamawm, which resulted in a mother being attacked, followed by the police pursuit of a stolen vehicle, a car crash and the arrest of two people.
Police are still looking for two more.
A police spokeswoman said they were now investigating an incident which occurred at a farm in Middleton Rd about 5am on Wednesday.
Detective Senior Constable Bernadette Waddington of Campaspe Crime Investigation Unit said two men and two women allegedly attended a farm where a mother suffered minor injuries after being assaulted and property was stolen. A 26-year-old man being held by the offenders eventually escaped to a nearby farmhouse.
A woman then allegedly stole a Pajero from the property, with police pursuing her to Lockington where she was arrested. Two others then fled in their own vehicle, which crashed in Prairie Rd, Rochester.
Lockington dairy farmer James Hann was asleep in his home with his wife and three children aged four, eight and 12, when a car crashed through his boundary fence in the early hours of the morning.
‘‘They woke us up and walked through my farm to get to the next one where they stole a ute,’’ he said.
‘‘This is getting out of control, we expect to be safe out here, it really scares me having young kids, they shouldn’t be witnesses to this.
‘‘Our door wasn’t locked, they could’ve been in our house before we realised.’’
Now he is forced to lock his doors and not trust anyone, he said.
The born-and-bred Lockington man said farm crime was ‘‘definitely getting worse recently’’.
‘‘Growing up I never saw anything like this,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re easy targets out in the rural areas and criminals know that.
‘‘They aren’t being prosecuted, they get a slap on the wrist, we need them to know this isn’t tolerated.
‘‘Our cops have limited resources, the system is failing so it’s up to us as neighbours to keep an eye out for each other.’’
Neighbour Noel Mitchell was baling hay at 5am Wednesday when he saw car lights approaching the Hann farm. ‘‘I thought it was unusual,’’ he said. ‘‘They alerted us the intruders were on foot and rang everyone to lock vehicles and keep their keys out of vehicles, then they helped guide police to what roads they went on.
‘‘We always thought this place was completely safe and reliable as far as trusting everything was all right but now we’re paranoid about who comes onto our property.
‘‘My ute was stolen out of a shed on July 21 and we still don’t know who it was. We need to utilise Neighbourhood Watch as a tool and keep each other safe.’’
Mark Holt — whose ute was caught up in the Wednesday crime spree — said it was frustrating.
‘‘I hadn’t abandoned my vehicle I was still in the paddock but people will do what they want when they’re fleeing a pursuit. You don’t want to confront them because they could do anything, we just need to look out and make sure we’re writing down number plates,’’ he said.
Campaspe Shire councillor Leigh Wilson blamed drugs last week for the spike in crime. ‘‘Drugs are the catalyst for this, no doubt,” he said. “They’re stealing whatever they can just to fuel their habit and with limited police numbers they’re getting away with it.” Det. Snr Constable Waddington said the ute was found in Kangaroo Flat later that day. Follow-up investigations by detectives resulted in a 26-year-old Bendigo man being arrested in Golden Square on Wednesday night. He was charged with theft of a motor car and bailed to appear in Echuca Magistrates Court on December 20. A Bendigo woman, 22, was charged with aggravated burglary and theft-related offences and was due to appear in Bendigo Magistrates Court last week but failed to appear and a warrant was issued. On the weekend, Victoria Police announced it would spend $2 billion across four years recruiting 2729 new frontline and specialist police, boosting overall numbers by 20 per cent. A spokesperson said the Rochester patrol area had assistance from highway patrol and put on additional night shifts to conduct proactive patrols recently. ‘‘Since they introduced these two initiatives they’ve had positive results in the areas of road policing, drug detection and the identification of people wanted by police,’’ a spokesperson said.