Police put stock thefts on radar

Kate PollardCountryman

Stock thieves beware - the boys in blue are coming for you.

WA Police have received 44 reports of livestock thefts - sheep, cattle, camels and goats - in the first four months of the year valued at more than half a million dollars.

Last year, they received 86 reports to the value of $1.2 million.

To combat the problem, police officers across the State are being given special training on how to gather evidence and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a theft has occurred.

Police will also ramp up efforts stopping utes and trucks transporting livestock to check weigh bills and other documents to correctly identify stock and their owners. They will also investigate wool theft.

Regional crime co-ordinator Det-Sgt David Byrne, who is leading the training, was previously in charge of the stock squad.

He said the two-day course gave officers and detectives, many of whom might never have been on a farm or handled livestock, a basic knowledge of the industry as well as information that could be gathered.

Officers learn about the types of livestock, the Stock Act requirements for ear marking and branding and industry documents that deal with management, transportation and sale of livestock.

"The people involved in taking livestock in commercial quantities have to have the knowledge, ability and capacity to move them - and that points to people in the industry," Det-Sgt Byrne said.

Farmers also need to play a part in the fight on stock theft by correctly identifying stock with earmarks and brands, keeping accurate records and checking stock regularly.

In many cases, stock thefts are reported within a three-month window of when main counts occur, including during shearing, lambing or crutching, which makes it difficult to investigate.

"We are encouraging farmers if they are moving sheep from one paddock to another to get a count through the gate," Det-Sgt Byrne said.

"Take every opportunity to keep an eye on them.

"If you have a suspicion stock are being taken, go and do an accurate count and let us know."

Last week, 15 officers from police stations from Williams to Albany and Ravensthorpe participated in the training in the Great Southern.

Katanning constable Jamie Dlugi, who hasn't had much to do with sheep, said he would be keeping an eye out when people were transporting livestock and investigating stock theft.

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