Little time could help cut crime on the farm

Courtesy of Iowa Farmer Today by Ann Marie Edwards, IFT columnist

Farmers might think rural crime will never affect them. However, there are frequent tales about stolen machinery, gas, tools and livestock.  A few extra precautions might help protect your investments and help you from being the victim of rural crime.

Criminals often look for easy targets where the profits are high and the risk is low, said Chris Tutko, director of Neighborhood Watch for the National Sheriffs Association.

Some simple, common-sense crime prevention practices can make your property less attractive and less available to criminals.

“When you have a lot of distances between houses or farms, people need to be aware of things that are out of  place and be suspicious of the unusual,” Tutko says, “And those suspicions need to be reported right away so law enforcement can get there and check them out.”

He recommends keeping expensive machinery and all vehicles in secure sheds or near a residence in a visible, well-lighted area and lock all vehicles.  Do not leave equipment in a remote area where no one is around.

Valuable tools, chemicals, seed and portable machinery should be kept in sturdy outbuildings secured with strong doors and deadbolt locks.

Fences should be kept up and in good shape with locked gates.

Loading chutes and grain bins should be secured with casehardened steel padlocks and hasps.

Use heavy-duty chains across roadways that are not gated.

Fuel supplies should be kept in a well-lit area under lock and visible from a house if possible.

Install master switches to pumps inside the house and  lock feed valves and pump handles.

Keep doors of barns, sheds and elevators closed and locked when not in use.

Close your garage doors when leaving and don’t advertise your absence.

Check livestock frequently, making regular counts and watch over isolated pastures and feedlots, and report missing animals immediately.

Consider marking or branding your property.

Studies have shown the use of recognizable markings on your personal property helps the chances of recovering lost or stolen goods.

Obtain a personal operation identification number from your sheriff or local law enforcement agency.  Use engravers or heavy-duty stamping tools from your sheriff or local law enforcement agency.

Carbon pencils also are available at nominal cost and can be used to mark most items.

Photograph each valuable item.

Maintain inventory sheets of all marked property including a description, individual item inventory number, and the value and location of visible and hidden numbers.

Keep all information in a safe place with other valuable documents.

“Keep the lines of communication open between neighbors, employees and others,” says Tutko. “It’s important to know your closest, trusted neighbors so you can check on suspicious activities.
Let people know of your whereabouts as well and have a plan in place, in case you end up in the middle of a crime taking place.  Think about how you would escape a situation if you were to confront intruders.”

Tutko also suggests avoiding a regular schedule. “Come and go on your property at varying times in case someone is observing your habits,” Tutko says.

Consider security equipment.  As technology becomes more accessible and affordable, farmers have more choices when it comes to surveillance equipment, alarm systems and antitheft devices.  Small wireless video cameras can be added to machinery sheds, livestock buildings or other parts of the farm.  Cameras can be programmed to record at regular increments.

Security systems available for home and businesses can be installed on farms too.  Mier Products, based in Kokomo, Indiana, offers a Drive-Alert alarm system that detects vehicle movement in driveways, farm lanes, near workshops, gas tanks, barns or other buildings.  A buried sensor and wireless Drive-Alert models sense metal objects that pass by the sensor.  A signal is transmitted to the control panel to trigger an alert whenever a car, truck, or other metal object moves within 10 feet of the sensor.

“Farmers can be alerted from inside their home even late at night when someone is messing around remote buildings, livestock buildings, gas tanks or even just vehicles coming in their drive,” says Scott Hullinger, vice president of Mier Products.

The company proved the value of the system with their local law enforcement to catch methanphedrine criminals who were trying to steal anhydrous ammonia from an area farm.  An alarm system was put in place near some tanks and the sensors alerted the law enforcement when the criminals approached the tanks and they were caught.  “We’ve made our system so that it only detects moving metal so it is very effective for farmers,” says Hullinger.

Another product is the Ravelco Theft Device which is installed in an easily accessible place under or flush mounted in the dashboard to prevent a vehicle from being hotwired.  A removable 16-pin male plug—which when not in use connects to your key chain—makes all the electronic connections.  A hidden armored steel cable protects the wires from the rear of the Ravelco base on through to the engine compartment where all the connections are made and camouflaged.  When the plug is removed from the Ravelco, it is impossible to start the vehicle.  It fits gas or diesel engines with either electronic or conventional ignitions.

For more information, contact Ravelco Anti-Theft Device based in Richmond, Texas atwww.ravelco.com.
For more information on the Drive-Alert system, visit www.mierproducts.com .
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