Mr Robin Swann, the Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman for North Antrim and Stormont Public Accounts Committee Chair, has secured a major boost in his battle against rural crime when he received a commitment from Stormont Justice Minister that she will encourage the Rural Crime Partnership to include funding for machinery tracking devices.
Assemblyman Swann, the UUP Chief Whip, secured the commitment after he asked the Minister of Justice following the farm vehicle marking scheme, whether she will consider funding a trial to allow farmers to purchase tracking devices to be fitted to agricultural machinery.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, the Minister stated: “The issue of crime against the farming community is a priority area for me as Justice Minister.
“The Executive’s Community Safety Strategy 2012–2017 recognised that rural communities have specific issues and priorities, such as livestock and machinery theft.
“The Strategy underlines the Department of Justice’s commitment to support the outcomes of the Executive’s Rural White Paper and Action Plan, led by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), to support and sustain rural communities and to deliver initiatives across Northern Ireland that will contribute to safer rural communities.
“A key vehicle for taking forward this work at a strategic level within the Department of Justice is the Rural Crime Partnership (RCP) – whose membership includes the DoJ, NFU Mutual, Ulster Farmers’ Union, DAERA and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“The primary focus of the RCP has been on developing a collaborative response to crime which is specific to rural areas and agricultural crime.
“The RCP used information gleaned from data gathered by the PSNI to support and fund the development and delivery of a number of initiatives, including a regional project to fit TRACKER security devices to high value farm machinery, resulting in the protection of over £3 million worth of machinery.
“Given the success of this initiative, but also taking into account the most up to date data on trends and patterns in agri-crime, the Partnership is considering similar measures of this nature and I have asked my officials to keep you advised of developments in this regard,” the Minister told Assemblyman Swann.
Mr Swann added: “Having already secured a key recognition of the need for tracking devices, I am pleased the Minister has also recognised the equally important need to find funding for such a project.
“We need to stamp on the scourge of rural crime as farmers protecting their machinery from theft could be the essential difference for them remaining in our already hard-pressed agricultural sector,” urged Assemblyman Swann.