A DELEGRATION of East Antrim Sinn Fein representatives, led by local MLA Oliver McMullan, along with Councillor Colum Thompson and Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop met with PSNI H district commander Chris Noble and Moyle chief inspector Brenda Cairns on Thursday to discuss agricultural crime.
The meeting was arranged after Oliver McMullan had asked the Justice Minister David Ford, in the assembly, to separate the statistics for agricultural crime and rural crime and treat them as a separate entity and to bring the issue to the attention of the PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott.
Mr. McMullan said: “Agriculture is a business that turns over billions and employs almost 50,000 people, unfortunately thefts from farms, including machinery and livestock, is a growing concern but if you ask the police for statistics on agricultural crime they can’t tell you because these figures are lumped in together with all other rural crime.
“The PSNI are in favoUr of separating the statistics and they believe it can only help their efforts. My point is if PSNI had all the relevant information to hand it would make their job a lot easier.”
Mr McMullan highlighted the growing number of livestock thefts as a particular concern, adding: “The theft of livestock has increased in recent times and it is a worrying situation. It is thought that up to 90% of stolen livestock actually goes directly into the food chain, so I have asked the PSNI to pay greater attention to meat plants and abattoirs in an effort to tackle this type of crime.”
The MLA also welcomed the PSNI’s decision to delegate an officer full time to the issue of agricultural crime in H district.
Glens Sinn Fein councillor Colum Thompson said that his party colleague’s call made perfect sense.
“To me it is an excellent proposal, separating statistics like this would ensure that both the police and the farming community would have information available regarding where and when agricultural crime is taking place and which types of items and property are being targeted.” Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop added: “With the news that agricultural crime is on the increase it was good to find out that the PSNI in H district are treating the problem as a priority and the separating of agricultural crime and rural crime statistics can only help them to tackle the problem.”