Kealy: More needs to be done
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh and Member for Lowan Emma Kealy have renewed calls for a dedicated Victoria Police livestock theft and rural crime unit.
Mr Walsh visited Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange with Ms Kealy on Wednesday last week in what he described as a post-federal Election tour of regional Victoria.
He said a spike in rural theft, particularly livestock theft, was concerning.
Victoria Police currently station agricultural liaison officers across regional Victoria to help investigate farm crime, but Mr Walsh said the government needed to overhaul the system.
“There used to be a dedicated livestock theft squad in Victoria Police and it’s something the current government hasn’t got,” he said. “We believe it should be there. “Everyone you talk to wants to see more done – whether it be stock theft, whether it be machinery and tools being taken out of workshops in rural areas.
“People want to make sure there is a dedicated service so police can actually track it down, because if it is just an add on to current policing roles, they don’t have the time.”
Ms Kealy agreed, saying soaring lamb prices – a pen of lambs at Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange set a Victorian record, since surpassed, at $325 a head last month – made livestock an attractive option for thieves.
She said she had canvassed property owners in her electorate and would present their cases to state parliament.
“We’ve heard of lots of stock theft
around the region on the back of these high stock prices,” she said.
“We want to get a feel for how broad it is and take that back to parliament and advocate for the policy we took to the election, which was around introducing a stock theft task force to focus and crack down on crime in rural areas.”
Ms Kealy said a police taskforce would help address failings in the current system.
“It’s really difficult in rural areas; sometimes the neighbours are a long way away and so while there are some good neighbourhood watch programs of looking out for each other’s stock, it can’t always happen,” she said.
“We need to make sure police have got the resources to spend enough time out and about to investigate these crimes and look into it.
“It’s crippling for a farmer who has just lost a trailer load of sheep when they’re making more than $300 a head for lambs at the moment.
“This is something that is really hurting them, particularly on the back of a couple of years’ drought.
“We need to see more resources thrown at this from the government.
“We haven’t heard anything from Labor about what they’re doing to tackle rural stock theft. It’s important that we do tackle it; it’s just as important as any crime in Melbourne.”
RENEWED CALL: Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh, left, and Member for Lowan Emma Kealy braved the elements for a tour of Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange with manager Paul Christopher. Mr Walsh and Ms Kealy are calling for a dedicated Victoria Police livestock theft and rural crime unit. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER