There are two avenues to limiting farm-related property crime, says Dean Ross, an agrosecurity consultant based in Michigan. First are the on-farm aspects, which include activities that make the farm a less-attractive place for criminals to target. The primary goal for a farm operator is to make it difficult for criminals to get to the sensitive or vulnerable areas on a farm.
The second major leg of improved farm security involves engagement with the local law enforcement and community. It can be difficult to keep all parts of your operation under regular observation. To do so would require many eyes and significant time. Farm operators can add to the available eyes by engaging with the surrounding community in a Rural Neighborhood Watch program and coordinating with local law enforcement.
Ross offers some additional suggestions for improving farm security:
- Limit the number of entryways into the farm. Ensure the farmstead and production areas are well-fenced and gates that are not in use are locked. A single farm entry, parking area and exit point ensures anyone coming to the farm will be more easily noticed and identified. This strategy also enables the use of a visitor’s policy to manage and track farm visitors and vendors for business and biosecurity purposes.
- Provide external lighting around sensitive areas on the farm. Much like cockroaches, those interested in property crime are less likely to be out in the open when potential targets are well-lit. Consider adding security lighting to areas such as: farm shops and tool storage areas, fuel, pesticide, fertilizer and chemical storage structures and tanks, grain bins and loading/unloading areas. Place the master switches for fuel pumps and grain-handling equipment inside a locked building. Lock feed valves and valve handles. Some farms have even made the move to using surveillance cameras. There is also evidence that the visibility of the farm structures and equipment from the farm residence is related to a reduced likelihood of theft.
- Store high-value tractors and harvesting equipment in visible areas if there are no buildings available. If equipment is left in the field overnight, remove rotors, distributor caps or batteries to limit the potential for theft. Lock tool boxes and fuel caps to limit potential vandalism opportunities. Consider placing a permanent identification number on farm equipment to help identify stolen equipment. At the same time, the prominent placement of signage indicating that equipment is “tagged” may help serve as a further deterrent to theft and help identify stolen equipment later. There are a number of “Owner Applied Numbering” schemes in use across the U.S. Check with local law enforcement to see if there is a program at work in your state. There are also privately operated equipment registries such as the National Equipment Registry where individual pieces of equipment can be registered for a fee.
- Livestock should be permanently identified and regularly inventoried to speed the discovery of loss and aid in returning them. FBI statistics indicate that the value of livestock stolen in U.S. in 2010 was over $19 million and only 12.8 percent of that was later recovered. Youngstock in pens or hutches should not be housed or fed by the roadside. Cattle on pasture (particularly pasture not visible from the farmstead) should be checked daily. Posting signage communicating the fact that each animal is permanently identified can act as a deterrent to theft.
- Engaging in a neighborhood watch program and increasing overall security features on the farmstead strengthens agricultural businesses and promotes safety in the community.
Dean Ross is an Agrosecurity consultant based in Michigan. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org