Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has challenged the Stormont Justice Minister and the entire Executive to “ensure funding is not removed from the fight to combat the scourge of rural crime”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also UUP Chief Whip, is a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and a Past Chairman of the influential Rural Youth Europe organisation.
Mr Swann issued his challenge after the National Farmers Union in Great Britain issued statistics which claimed that Co Antrim was the ninth highest county in the United Kingdom for rural crime.
Mr Swann said: “More must be done to tackle rural crime, with County Antrim the ninth highest county in the whole of the UK according to NFU.
“It is difficult enough being a farmer and making a profit without thieves inflicting further hardships on our agricultural and rural communities, especially in isolated regions.
“In spite of the massive cuts being imposed on the Northern Ireland people by the DUP/Sinn Fein-run Executive at Stormont, I call on the Justice Minister and his Executive colleagues to secure vital funding to a part-time police unit dedicated to combatting rural crime.
“This statistic from the NFU is truly shocking and justifies the need for such a part-time police unit.
“If the scourge of rural crime is not halted, we could see numerous farmers going out of business and rural communities become wastelands as people move back into the towns and cities.
“The fact that Co Antrim is now the ninth highest in the UK means it is now time for positive action against rural crime, not pious and empty words and condemnations. It is time to give the security forces the resources they need so they can take their gloves off against the criminals who prey on our farming and rural communities,” said Assemblyman Swann.