More rural crime officers will soon be rounding up sheepish thieves across the state with a number of new specialist investigators set to join the ranks, Police Minister Troy Grant said.
Mr Grant said 18 extra Rural Crime Investigators (RCIs) would be deployed across regional NSW to target country crime including stock theft, illegal hunting, stealing, trespass and firearms offences.
“This boost will make a huge difference to the work of our RCIs, taking their overall contingent to almost 60 officers across the state,” Mr Grant said.
“This is all thanks to the Liberals & Nationals Government’s record $583 million investment in the NSW Police Force that will deliver 1,500 extra police over the next four years.”
Mr Grant said rural crime was unique and could have a devastating impact on the state’s farmers so it is important to have officers specially trained to investigate these issues.
“Farmers appreciate the knowledge and experience of our RCIs, who understand the real effect of stock or property theft, and specific challenges faced by regional communities,” Mr Grant said.
“Cattle and sheep theft cost our farmers at least $3 million last year alone with more than 20,000 animals reported stolen to police – and that’s not even accounting for the loss of breeding potential, or more valuable stud stock.”
Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said it was cowardly for criminals to target farmers.
“It’s a total kick in the guts for our farmers, some of whom are already having to downsize and take on secondary employment to survive the crippling drought. We will absolutely keep doing everything we can to stand up for our farmers,” Mr Blair said.
NSW Police Force Corporate Spokesperson on Rural Crime, Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie, said the boost would significantly strengthen their investigative capabilities.
“Rural crime investigations can be very complex. Even canvassing neighbours and gathering evidence presents challenges with victims and witnesses often living hundreds of kilometres apart, so more resources will certainly bolster our ongoing work,” Mr McKechnie said.
“These criminals can also be quite cunning and dangerous with illegal hunting, firearms offences and trespassing all big challenges for our RCIs. And while our talented investigators have achieved some fantastic results in recent years, there’s still more work to be done.”