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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Farmers warned to 'stamp' their farm equipment or risk losing it to thieves

Thefts can be traumatic for farmers and their families. Communities are advised to work with local gardaí and watch out for suspicious activity.

A competitor at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullow, Co Carlow (2004).
A competitor at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullow, Co Carlow (2004).

FARMERS ARE BEING warned to take precautions to guard their tools and equipment to ensure they can be returned if recovered after a robbery.

Recently in Tipperary, gardaí were unable to find the rightful owners of stolen items because of a lack of identification markings.

The Irish Farmers’ Association has launched its Summer Secure campaign to advise its members to tattoo their equipment as their own with some sort of permanent, unique mark.

The campaign is partly in response to that Property Recovery Day in Tipperary where 500 stolen items were on display following their recovery by officers.

“There were two warehouses filled,” Jer Bergin, the IFA’s national membership coordinator told TheJournal.ie.

“And 90% of the stuff wasn’t marked.”

The message from that was very clear, he says: “…with no identification markings on an item, the chances of property being reunited with its rightful owner are very slim.

If you take one chainsaw and it’s not marked, then it’s identical to every other chainsaw.

The numbers

There are more than 2,000 thefts from farmyards reported each year in Ireland, with rural areas particularly affected.

However, a recent report by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association indicated this number is conservative.

Although the survey showed that two-thirds of farmers have been affected by crime related to their business, it also highlighted a gap in reporting.

“The results of the survey reveal that the issue of agricultural crime is a far bigger issue than official garda statistics would suggest,” president Patrick Kent said, noting that there is an underreporting of thefts from farms.

The research revealed that, on average, farmers were willing to take a financial hit of up to €1,771 rather than report the incident.

“Theft, vandalism and fly-tipping all have serious cost implications for farmers, as do increased insurance premiums when farmers have to make a claim,” Kent explained at the time.

Commenting on the same findings, ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock added, “As well as the financial cost, there is also the unseen cost of fear and stress caused when your home or farm has been targeted by criminals.

We are witnessing the whole fabric of rural society being decimated with farmers feeling more and more isolated and side-lined. Nobody should have to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.

What is the target for burglars?

Medium and small-scale tools and equipment are usually taken through break-ins or people pretending to be sole traders offering a cheap price to do labour.

These include items such as quads, trailers, tractors and other machinery, as well as power tools and garden equipment like drills, strimmers, and chainsaws.

Bergin says farmers have a responsibility “not to deal with people that they don’t know”.

“It might sound like a cliché but if the price is too good to be true… it is too good to be true,” he told TheJournal.ie.

National Ploughing championships Source: Declan Masterson via PA Images

He says one of the measures that has been taken to reduce the number of thefts from yards is farmers themselves keeping a lookout for anything strange in the area.

“[They have] good eyes and ears, they’re up early in the morning and late in the night: so they see things other people wouldn’t.”

These kinds of measures, coordinated with An Garda Síochána and the IFA’s 950 branches across the country, have led to an increased awareness of rural thefts.

Recovery

The IFA has stencil kits that farmers can use to put a permanent mark on their equipment. Members are also advised to take photos of each piece of kit to keep a record of what they own, in case of a break-in.

Those who have been burglarised say it has a profound effect on them mentally, as well as putting their livelihood under duress.

Bergin’s brother was targeted one night but he interrupted the burglars when he went to put the dog out for the night.

Kildare farmer Liam Dunne previously described the effect a farmyard theft had on his household as “quite traumatic”, adding that his family for weeks afterwards would wake at night hearing noises out in the yard.

“They should normally have been fast asleep,” he said.

Oliver Clooney, a farmer from Co Laois who was a victim of previous robberies said that a coordinated response by the community to look out for dangers has made a huge difference.

“Get involved with your local community,” he advises. “You’re a lot stronger if you pull together.”

Read: Rural ‘spotters’ make money spying on farmers and selling information to criminal gangs

Read: ‘An invasion of a place I grew up in, where I always felt safe’ – Farmers speak of trauma after thefts

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