Farmers keep eyes open

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Farmers in the Pemberton region are fighting back against rural crime.

The local Southerners Football Club has launched a Rural Watch program to encourage farmers to assist police in putting together pieces of each crime puzzle.

Sergeant Harry Arnott, head of the Pemberton Police Station, said crimes in the area, particularly relating to rural thefts, had increased from last year.

He said the program was simply about communication between farmers, the community and local police.

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"It's about putting all the pieces of the puzzle together," Sgt Arnott said.

"Rural Watch encourages farmers to take responsibility for the security of their asset and to watch out for their neighbours.

"It also encourages them to communicate anything they see that is unusual, to us and to their neighbours.

"Crime is a real issue and any amount of crime in our district is unacceptable, so together with our farming community, we have implemented the Rural Watch program."

Southerners Football Club president Justin Omodei said the club had been the conduit between police and the farming community.

He said Rural Watch signs had been handed out to farmers to display on their farm frontage and UV marking pens had also been purchased to mark tools and other agricultural items with invisible ink.

"The message here is that we can't be complacent," Mr Omodei said.

"This program is all about being proactive to prevent crime.

"We hope that someone driving through our areas sees these signs and understands that it's not a good idea to get into our farms."

Mr Omodei said the club was also looking into a bulk purchase of motion sensor security cameras.

But Sgt Arnott urged farmers not to take the law into their own hands.

"Don't approach them," he said.

"It doesn't matter how big you are - you don't know what drugs they are taking, you aren't protected by the law if you tackle them. Don't put yourself at risk."

Sgt Arnott said while stock theft was minimal in the area, some marron farmers had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of product in recent years.

"Marron is considered stock under the criminal code and one of the biggest issues these farmers face is theft," he said.

"When you are talking about a small business, that sort of money has a major impact on their bottom line."

Sgt Arnott commended the football club for promoting the program.

"Without the footy club getting behind it, it might not have got off the ground," he said.

"If it's successful in Pemberton, it could be used as a template for other football clubs, so maybe they could pick up on it and drive it in other rural areas."

Sgt Arnott said the fence signs, cameras and invisible marker pens were also a message to offenders to stay away from the area.

"We are putting an overt message out there to the offenders that they need to second guess themselves," Sgt Arnott said.

For more information about Neighbourhood Watch visit www.nhw.wa.gov.au .

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