Police Watch: Case File
Ross Harvey - Sheep farmer, Ivanhoe, Western NSW
He’s lost about $400,000 to thieves – but this Western region farmer thinks he knows the solution.
ROSS HARVEY knows better than most the impact of persistent stock theft. During the past four years, he and his family have lost an estimated $400,000 to thieves who have targeted his isolated properties in the Ivanhoe area, Western NSW.
Ross, a sheep farmer who runs the five Ivanhoe properties remotely from his main base in the Riverina, says the thieves started small, taking only a few sheep at a time, but the numbers grew as they realised they could get away with it.
“We only muster our sheep every couple of months on a rotating basis, so it’s very difficult to keep an eye on numbers. Often if there are only a dozen or so missing then it’s easy to overlook, or to put down to an accident or a few wild dogs. But then we started to notice that we were regularly out by 30 sheep, then 50 sheep and eventually they started to take 100 at a time.
“We were getting hit every couple of weeks, losing 30 sheep one night, 100 another night.”
“At first the police didn’t seem to be all that interested. We even caught one bloke with a trailer and truck on our land, but when we called the police they couldn’t come out because they didn’t have anyone else to man the station.”
Even so, he says, police reactions have changed recently. “The police in our area have really picked up their game in the past few months,” says Ross, who runs about 35,000 sheep over more than 80,000 hectares. “The sheep thieves seem to have dropped off but unfortunately they now seem to be after our goats.
“It’s damned frustrating. I’ve never been a man who puts money before everything else, but when you have to stand by and see the business you’ve spent your life building up for your family stolen away in bits and pieces from under your nose, it’s heart-breaking.”
Ross believes that there is only one solution to stock theft – and that is to give those found guilty of trespass the maximum penalty under the law. “I have never seen a magistrate hand out anything more than a $200 fine,” says Ross.
“If they made the maximum penalty a $20,000 fine and confiscated their vehicle, then they’d stop stock theft right in its tracks.”
Six steps to foil the crooks
- Check stock regularly, and always keep all paddocks, sheds and stockyard gates closed and locked. Make sure fencing is secure. Use locking posts to secure and obstruct wide openings.
- Locate water points, stockyards and loading ramps away from public roads where possible and away from entry points to the property. Store any moveable loading ramps when not in use.
- Be aware of strange vehicles in the area. Write down the registration number and description of any suspicious vehicles and pass it on to the police.
- Liaise with trusted neighbours. Share information about suspicious vehicles. Let them know when you will be away, so they can keep an eye on your property. Offer to do the same for them.
- Mark stock with either an electronic device, a tattoo, a brand or a tag that is easily identifiable. Keep a record of all markings. Photograph valuable stock to help with identification by police if they are stolen.
- Be visible on your property. Leave tyre tracks and evidence that you frequently check your stock and paddocks.
Source: University of New England