Police are appealing for information following the theft of five lambs from the Annaclone area last week.
Sometime between 9pm on Monday, 25 January and 9am on Tuesday, 26 January, the lambs, four Texel white lambs and one black lamb were taken from an outhouse on Glebe Road.
Speaking after the incident, Deputy President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union Barclay Bell, said that rural crime is a ‘scourge’ on the countryside.
“This is an ongoing problem.” he commented. “Livestock theft is currently still a problem, at the minute it is the prevalent crime over machinery theft.
“Rural crime is still a scourge on the countryside,” Mr Bell added.
“Most livestock have a value. I don’t know the details of this particular case, if they are big lambs or small lambs, it’s hard to say the value without the details of the case, but in more general terms, livestock is an easy target, particularly sheep.
“They spend most of their time in fields, but these criminals, if they want them they’ll steal them anywhere. I’ve seen cases where they’ve gone into houses of cattle, and they don’t just take the first cattle they find. They identify the particular cattle they want.”
Mr Bell said that lambs are classified as lambs up to a year old, and that it would be unlikely they are newborn lambs as it would be difficult to separate them from the mother.
“We’ve seen a big rise in livestock theft,” he added. “Three or four years ago the big thing was machinery, like tractors or quads. It seems to be organised gangs who have the ability to steal livestock. This is happening throughout Northern Ireland and is a harder one for the PSNI to get to grips with.”
Mr Bell said that whilst police inspectors are doing ‘very good work’, he feels that tougher sentences would deter those committing rural crime.
“The big disappointment is that while there is good work going on, there haven’t been that many convictions.
“Sometimes we feel whilst an offender may even have been taken to court, the judicial system can be a problem, the sentences dished out aren’t hard enough.
“Some people blame the PSNI, but I think if tougher sentences were given it would put a few people off.
“A farm is also a family home. For a farmer it’s a business, but it’s also their home and the distress of that, knowing people have been walking round their sheds stealing stuff, it does make people in rural areas feel isolated.
“I was speaking with the PSNI and they said a tractor could be stolen at 2am or 3am and before daylight it’s into a container and out through the ports and gone. There is evidence that some have been totally dismantled in three or four hours and they disappear in parts.
“It says that these people know exactly what they want and are highly professional.
“Living in a rural community, we have to take as many measures as we can to prevent or livestock and property being taken. If you see anything suspicious, report it to the police.”
Enquiries into this incident are ongoing and police would appeal to anyone who has information that may assist their investigation to contact them on 101, quoting ref: 760 26/01/16.
If you prefer to provide information without giving your details you can contact the independent Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.