Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin has spoken of his concern following the release of PSNI crime statistics which place the Armagh district at the top of the table for agricultural crime.
According to the figures around 10% of all agricultural crime in Northern Ireland takes place in the Armagh district something Mr Irwin said was a source of “ongoing concern” for farmers in the area.
Mr Irwin, who also serves as member of the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership, attended a public meeting of the PCSP in Markethill recently where the issue of rural crime was discussed in detail with local police inspectors.
He explained: “The meeting in Markethill was very open and a good debate was held between local farmers and the PSNI on the best way forward to beat the rural crime scourge in the wider Armagh area.”
“As a farmer myself I receive a lot of feedback and contact from local farmers who have lost animals, machinery and other equipment and at the recent public meeting there was a great sense that not enough was being done to beat the criminals, despite farmers taking all reasonable measures to improve security.”
Mr Irwin revealed that during the meeting direct cases were put to the PSNI by local farmers who had been extremely dissatisfied by the response of local police when incidents had been reported to them.
Mr Irwin said: “There was a strong feeling that the criminals were acting with impunity in targeting farm businesses and the point was made that more resources must be put in to rural policing in order to catch these criminals at their work. Local farmers revealed their dissatisfaction with the police response and the police chiefs did respond positively at the meeting with assurances that all reports would be thoroughly investigated.”
He concluded: “We have had a number of reports recently, including from the insurance industry, detailing the losses being incurred in the rural community from rural crime and with my own constituency having the highest number of cases, it does require a much more robust response from the PSNI and that is something I will continue to lobby for. Farmers cannot continue to absorb the losses in both time and money from rural crime, the issue must receive greater attention from the police and the courts in order to effectively reduce these incidents.”