Rural areas of Causeway Coast and Glens ‘deserve better policing’ according to DUP Councillor Adrian McQuillan.
He also questioned if the ‘police were taking rural crime seriously.’
The Bann DEA Councillor spoke of concerns raised by many of his constituents despite the latest police statistics stating that agricultural crime has shown an overall downwards trend.
In 12 months from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, there were 291 agricultural crimes recorded in Northern Ireland, a fall of 24.4% on the previous 12 months. However, Causeway Coast & Glens had the fourth highest level with 36 offences, down two on the previous year.
The highest level of agriculture crime was seen in Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon (43 offences) followed by Newry, Mourne & Down (42) then Fermanagh & Omagh (40).
The number of burglary, robbery and theft offences in rural settlements across the Province decreased by 26.7 per cent (1,415 offences) and again Causeway Coast & Glens was the fourth highest.
The percentage of offences in rural settlement areas was 50% in Mid Ulster, 48% in Fermanagh & Omagh, 42% in Newry, Mourne & Down and 36% in Causeway Coast & Glens.
Councillor McQuillan said: “Whilst there has been a decrease in agriculture and rural crimes, has it really decreased that much in the Causeway Coast & Glens area and how much has that got to do with the Covid restrictions?
“Are the police really taking rural crime in our area seriously because it is a big concern for people living in the area. We never see the police about any more and if you are looking for the police you are chasing them all the time.
“People in rural areas are concerned at the lack of police presence, they feel left to their own devices more or less and it’s a point I have been making to the local District Commander for some time now.
“The rural areas make up a large part of Causeway Coast & Glens and I think it deserves proper policing.”
Responding to Councillor McQuillan, District Commander Superintendent Ian Magee said: “Rural crime severely impacts the farm business and police and partners continue to work with the rural community to prevent and detect crime.
“The statistics show that overall rural crime is down and our analysis shows that lockdown measures introduced on March 23, 2020, have had an impact on the number of burglary, robbery and theft offences recorded in Northern Ireland.
“The rural community is a significant part of our District here in Causeway Coast and Glens and officers are in those areas carrying out patrols and engaging with residents.
“It is important that we all work together to make the countryside safer for everyone. Reporting promptly any activity that raises your suspicions is a good way to initiate our investigation and will help to deter criminals and reduce crime in your area. It could be an unusual vehicle seen parked or travelling on a road in the area, or someone calling and asking for directions.
“Take a note of the vehicle registration number and a description of the vehicle. Criminals are always on the lookout for valuable items that they can easily re-sell.
“Quads, trailers and other items of farm machinery should therefore be kept locked away in garages or outbuildings, when not in use. And, for added security, people should consider locking gates using British Standard closed shackled padlocks at yards and on laneways to prevent unauthorised vehicular access.
“Preventing crime and being switched on to crime prevention will help to protect your property. Putting frequently used machines away and locking up sheds and outbuildings may seem like a chore you can do without, but it won’t be as inconvenient as having an important and valuable piece of equipment stolen.
“Make your property unique to you by permanently marking all items with your postcode and house number. The marking should be placed on parts of the equipment that will be difficult for the thieves to disguise or expensive for them to replace. Remember to take a photograph of the machinery and keep a list of makes, models, serial numbers, colour and a record of any damage. Owners should also seriously consider using anti-theft systems such as security tagging, and electronic tracking devices in addition to wheel clamps and hitch locks.
“Farmers also need to give some thought to the security of their livestock, and in addition to keeping records of stock numbers and making regular checks to ensure all is in order, farmers should also record the colour and location of dye markings. Access to fields should not be overlooked either and gates leading to fields should be securely locked at all times.”
Local Democracy Reporter