VICTIMS: Stuart and Marg McPhee, of Britannia Poll Herefords at Ulmarra near Grafton, have experienced problems with cattle duffing over the years.
VICTIMS: Stuart and Marg McPhee, of Britannia Poll Herefords at Ulmarra near Grafton, have experienced problems with cattle duffing over the years. Adam Hourigan

Rural crooks steal $1m worth of cattle and sheep this year

STOCK theft continues to be a major issue in rural NSW, with sheep and cattle worth an estimated $1 million stolen so far this year.

According to NSW Police Force statistics, 740 head of cattle and 6580 sheep have been reported stolen since the beginning of this year.

Depending on market-price fluctuations and the quality of the animals - for example, if they are stud stock - the value of these thefts could be as high as $1 million.

The implications of these numbers were high on the agenda at the NSW Police Force Rural Crime Investigators' conference, which took place in Batemans Bay recently.

Rural Crime Investigators (RCIs) are detectives who are specially trained to investigate and prosecute crime that impacts on the pastoral, agricultural and aquaculture industries.

There are 33 RCIs stationed at 26 non-metropolitan local area commands across rural and regional NSW.

The annual RCI conference provides a rare opportunity for these detectives to meet in one place to discuss the latest trends and tactics in fighting rural crime.

Also attending the conference were rural-crime investigators from Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland.

"Rural crime is an Australia-wide issue that costs the industry a conservative estimate of $70 million a year, and commonly crosses state boundaries," western region commander and rural crime spokesman assistant commissioner Geoff McKechnie said.

In one recent case, RCIs in NSW helped track down cattle allegedly stolen from a property 1300km away in far north-west Queensland.

The theft of stock, fuel and machinery form the bulk of RCIs' work however rural crime investigations also encompass animal cruelty, rural arson, illegal hunting, firearm offences, meat substitution at abattoirs, and farm-based cannabis plantations and drug labs.


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