“ALARMING” figures reportedly showing a significant rise in rural crime in areas including Dromara, Hillsborough, Anahilt and Drumbo have prompted a warning from local politicians.
The warning, from Dromara (Downshire) Councillor Paul Stewart and Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan, Chairman of the Assembly Justice Committee, comes as the farming community in Dromara and other rural areas of Lisburn have teamed up with police to launch a new initiative to tackle countryside crime.
Mr. Givan said, “Recent figures from police are concerning in a number of ways. “Hillsborough has seen a 50% increase in the number of crimes on another person; the rural area of Dromara, Anahilt and Drumbo has had a 35% increase in burglaries from April compared to the same period last year.
“These statistics are quite alarming in the approach to Christmas. I would urge the public to be extra vigilant of their property and possession and to report any suspicious activity.”
Lisburn Policing and Community Safety Partnership member, Mr. Stewart, added, “Sadly the latest crime figures are rather disappointing for the rural areas, especially those in Downshire.
“While drugs offences see the largest overall drop, other crimes, such as non-payment for fuel, have increased in each rural neighbourhood in Lisburn.
“The percentages of offences against a person in Hillsborough and burglary in Dromara should make it clear to those within these areas to be careful and mindful or any abnormal activity. If everyone takes greater care in protecting themselves and their property hopefully these crime figures will decrease.”
Meanwhile, Hillsborough’s Old Courthouse last week provided the backdrop for the launch of ‘Farm Watch’, which aims to promote the importance of being vigilant and the need for improved communication - both within rural and farming communities and between rural communities and the PSNI.
In addition to being part of a text and email alert scheme, farmers and rural dwellers who sign up to the scheme will receive specific `Farm Watch` roadside/property signage to act as a deterrent to would-be criminals.
They will also be able to avail of uniquely coded property marking for farm machinery, making it harder for thieves to dispose of stolen machinery and easier for police to identify stolen property and return any recovered items to their rightful owners. Practical crime prevention advice is also available from police and crime prevention officers to farmers and landowners, to help ensure that property and equipment are as secure as possible.
Membership of Farm Watch also commits farmers to a number of measures to help them make the most of the scheme; among other things they take it upon themselves to put up the signage and mark farm machinery with the unique code within seven days of receipt.
Farmers must also agree to display a house number at the roadside entrance to their property (even if this at the bottom of a long laneway) so emergency services can identify homes in time of need, and to report any suspicious activity to police.
Lisburn Area Commander, Chief Inspector Darrin Jones, said, “I hope that with the introduction of Farm Watch and police surgeries commencing in Hillsborough in January local people will feel reassured that we are taking their concerns seriously and are making a concerted effort to reduce rural crime in the Lisburn area.”
Download Farm Watch Application Forms from http://www.psni.police.uk/index/d-district/d_district_community_safety.htm.