Riverina farmers have labelled an alliance with local cops as “awesome”.
Eurongilly woman Elissa Drew shared the success of the small town’s crime-stopping initiative amid Rural Crime Week.
She said a growing number of stock and property thefts on farms had made farmers feel “powerless”.
That was until the district developed a simple text-message alert system.
It followed the theft of 1000-litres of fuel from a Eurongilly property, earlier in the year.
“It happened during the day,” Ms Drew said. “Everyone was out at the Riverina Schoolboys Football Carnival.”
She said the farmer, whose fuel was stolen, had been volunteering at the school event when it was stolen.
We're on the same side.- Elissa Drew
“He worked his arse off that day,” she said. “That’s what he got for his efforts.”
This example was one a number of incidents reported across the Riverina in recent months, with 100 lambs in stolen from a Marrar property in August.
It follows a NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reveal more than 30 farms had stock taken between June 2017 and 2018.
Stretching beyond theft, crimes affecting the Riverina’s land owners have included trespassing, illegal hunting, bio-hazards and firearms offences.
Ms Drew said close to 60 community members met at the town hall last month, to “team up” and address the growing problem.
Instead of whinging about what police were or were not doing to stop the crimes, Ms Drew said Eurongilly farmers had “pulled themselves together” and forged a strong relationship with officers, inviting them to learn about life on the land.
She said cops no longer sat in the station, waiting for crime to happen.
“They’re doing things differently,” Ms Drew said. “They get out there and get involved with the farmers.”
Now, she said if someone dodgy was driving around paddocks or drones suspiciously flying overhead, a text-message alert system would go out to everyone in the neighbourhood, including local police.
“Everyone is looking out for each other, so if they get a message,” Ms Drew said. “They’ll all be there.”
Junee’s police chief Rob Vergano said he was confident a police car would be on its way to check out a property, within 10 minutes of receiving a notification.
Inspector Vergano attributed the success of the community’s initiative to the farmers, whom he “couldn't praise enough”.
He said it was the perfect example of fresh rural crime fighting commitment across the state, with authorities and property owners working together to prevent future illegal activities damaging their livelihoods.
“It’s great for us to get out there and learn from farmers,” Inspector Vergano said.
“It’s not about us teaching them … it’s about them teaching us about the rural lifestyle.”
NSW Field Operations Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys on Monday joined Minister for Police Troy Grant in Wagga to Launch Rural Crime Week.
The deputy commissioner said across the week, the Riverina’s rural crime prevention team would be jumping on board a number of activities across the region to provide advice and tips about how best to protect property, neighbours and stock.
Workshop sessions will be held at:
- Henty Field Day: NSW Farmers Shed from 11am to 12.30pm on September 18.
- Narrendera: Ex-Servicemen’s Club (41 Bolton Strreet) on September 19.
- Deniliquin: RSL Club (72 End Street) on September 20
“By engaging farmers and locals, we can build resilience in the community,” Deputy Commissioner Warboys said.
“(This will) allow us to successfully hunt down, arrest and prosecute those affecting the livelihoods of our farmers.”