Victoria Police says a review of its Agricultural Liaison Officer network is close to completion, as farm crime and livestock theft emerges as a growing state election issue.
The review has been carried out over the past few months, and Victoria Police Superintendent Narelle Beer said a report was imminent.
“Victoria Police is reviewing how the AGLO network looks and operates and we are hoping to have a response finalised in about two weeks’ time,” Superintendent Beer said.
In the year to March 2018, there were 154 reports of livestock theft in the western region policing division alone.
That is a 36 per cent increase on the previous year, Crime Statistics Agency data shows.
Victoria has more than 70 AGLOs, who investigate farm crime, but the role is not full-time.
Opposition Agriculture spokesman Peter Walsh said regional farmers, grappling with the theft of thousands of dollars of worth of livestock and farm machinery voiced their frustration at being abandoned by the government.
“The Nationals are acutely aware of the significant toll livestock and other on-farm theft takes on our farmers – both emotionally and financially,” Mr Walsh said.
“Our farmers should be enjoying the strong prices we’re currently seeing for livestock – not worrying they’ll be the target of criminals.”
But Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford criticised state opposition plans to re-establish a farm theft crime division within Victoria Police.
She said AGLOs were working with farmers and providing an important exchange of information.
“The Liberal and National parties say one thing in opposition, and do another in government,” Ms Pulford said.
A Victoria Police spokesperson said police had increased patrols in some high-risk theft areas and were working closely with farmers, stock agents and other police to build intelligence.
The spokesperson acknowledged rural crime was often under-reported.