THEFTS of up to 400 sheep from south-west properties have been reported to Warrnambool police in the past six months.
South-west police crime advisor Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Canavan said thefts of that scale required considerable planning and organisation by the offenders.
He urged farmers to report any thefts as soon as they realised any livestock were missing.
Detective Senior Sergeant Canavan said the sooner the theft was reported to police the greater likelihood that livestock could be tracked down, particularly sheep.
He anticipated the number of stock stolen could be greatly reduced as a result of quick reporting to police and better management practices in accounting for stock.
Details of the location and circumstances of the south-west thefts were not available yesterday.
Detective Senior Sergeant Canavan’s comments come after the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) praised the progress being made by the Victoria Police’s livestock and farm crime specialist advisory group.
The AGLO (agricultural liaison officer) network — launched in October 2011 — is made up of more than 40 police officers across the state.
VFF livestock group president Ian Feldtmann said the AGLOs who dealt with agricultural crime were local community members, which provided a valuable contact for farmers concerned with livestock and farm crime.
He said recent figures which showed reported farm thefts in 2011-12 were up 38 per cent on the previous year did not reflect an increase in crime, but that farmers felt more confident and willing to report thefts to the police.
The VFF sits on the board of the livestock and farm specialist advisory group and Mr Feldtmann said progress was being made with new systems to combat rural crime.
“The determination by Victoria Police to address farm crime gives us confidence that there will be more prosecutions of criminals operating in rural areas,” he said.
“We are in the early days of a new group and we want to see continued progress for all farmers affected by crime.
“Success in this area is always going to be a two-way street, and it’s fair to have expectations from policing, but members of the farming community also have to be proactive in relation to being vigilant and reporting crime and suspicious behaviour as a matter of urgency.”