MORE than 650 sheep have been reported stolen from farms across the south-west in the last financial year.
Data released by Victoria Police showed 421 sheep went missing in the Southern Grampians area from July 2011 to June 2012 and a further 235 sheep were stolen from the Warrnambool area in the same period.
Corresponding figures for the previous financial year were 748 sheep in the Southern Grampians area and 87 sheep from farms in the Warrnambool district.
Rustlers also targeted cattle, with 19 taken from Southern Grampians properties and 56 head from around Warrnambool during 2010-11.
In previous financial year four cows were stolen from the Warrnambool area and one from within Southern Grampians.
The latest data comes after Warrnambool police revealed as many as 400 sheep from south-west properties have been reported stolen in the past six months.
South-west police crime advisor Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Canavan said thefts involving such large numbers of livestock required considerable planning and organisation by the offenders.
Head of practice for the livestock and farm crime specialist group, Superintendent Craig Gillard, said Victoria Police was proud of the considerable progress made since launching more than a year ago.
He suggested the increased number of reported thefts reflected a growing awareness and confidence among farmers.
“We have always been clear that crime prevention is preferable to detection and that one of the most significant barriers towards reducing thefts is the lack of reporting to police,” he said.
“The fact many more thefts have been reported to police is indicative of the confidence our agriculture liaison officers are building in the farming community.”
During the past financial year there were two horses stolen from the Warrnambool area, eight reported thefts of poultry and one pig.