Associate Professor Glenn Porter and Dr Kyle Mulrooney at UNE have established are Centre for Rural Criminology. Rural crime costs the community and government millions of dollars in losses each year in Australia and can also have devastating social and economic impact.
The University of New England (UNE) will officially launch the world's only research centre dedicated to rural criminology on 9 September 2019, to help tackle the rising cost of rural crime and develop evidence based solutions to this growing issue.
"Farm crime in particular, such as the theft of livestock, produce and equipment, illegal hunting, trespassing and other crimes affect not only individuals but the wider agricultural industry. Particularly as productive farmers may leave the sector as a consequence of victimisation," Dr Kyle Mulrooney, UNE criminologist and co-director of the Centre said.
"In the first six months of this year just in NSW, sheep and cattle theft alone has cost primary producers more than $1.1 million, which is incredibly concerning.
"Past studies into rural crime have shown that around half of rural crime goes unreported for a variety of reasons such as a reluctance to report and problems obtaining evidence - meaning it's difficult to quantify and address the issues.
"Building on this primary research, the UNE Centre for Rural Criminology will focus on understanding the depth and breadth of crime issues in rural communities, including through an extensive NSW survey on rural crime we're about to conduct," Dr Mulrooney said.
The analysis of data related to rural crime and incidents within the regional areas will now have an area of study at UNE. Studying the statistical analysis of data and including research into the prevention of crime will be an important aspect of the centre's purpose.
The University of New England is uniquely placed to address these rural crime issues through its regional focus and agricultural sector connections.
Co-director and UNE criminologist Associate Professor Glenn Porter says it's an important step in ensuring a relevant focus on issues impacting farmers and agricultural communities worldwide.
"For a long time, rural crime has been ignored in favour of urban crime issues in criminology. UNE criminologists were some of the earliest in the world to focus on the unique issues and their impacts upon farmers and rural communities," A/Prof Porter said.
"Through this new Centre of Rural Criminology, we have created a network of researchers focused on understanding these issues and working with local law enforcement and the community to lower crime rates and equip communities to respond to and, ultimately, prevent these crimes.
"As well as building the worldwide knowledge-base on rural crime, we'll be working closely with our local police and community to inform evidence-based policies, resources and campaigns that will make a difference in our region and further afield," he said.
NSW Police Force State Rural Crime Coordinator Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside said, "initiatives like this play an important role in crime prevention and building community trust."
The New England region will be able to use the centre for education concerning crime prevention. Especially as local graziers, community members and police will be able to interact with the academic centre as it begins to problem solve.
The new Centre for Rural Criminology will bring together a network of world-leading criminologists in partnership with law enforcement and the wider community.
At a recent seminar held at UNE Detective Inspector Whiteside explained that, "for those working on the land it's hard enough without the threat of crime.
"The challenges of running a farm and business should not be further compounded by the added stress of preventable illegal activities and criminal acts against our rural communities and industries," Detective Inspector Whiteside said.
"Research activity and solid community engagement are excellent ways to demonstrate to those communities at risk just how serious police are about combating rural crime.
"We're delighted that we'll have greater insights from the community and well-informed research to help us meet the expectations and needs of the communities we're protecting, and help us disrupt criminal activities and operations to build safer and stronger communities," Detective Inspector Whiteside said.
The official public launch for the UNE Centre for Rural Criminology will offer an opportunity to find out more about the issues, impact and cost of rural crime from world-leading criminologists and the NSW Police Force.
The UNE Centre for Rural Criminology will be opened at a public event on Monday September 9 at 5:30pm-7:30pm at Armidale Town Hall, 127 Rusden Street.