Special cops called in to investigate major cattle theft
DETECTIVES from the Rural Crime Squad are investigating a grazier's report of 120 head of cattle missing from his property in Monto.
Detective Sergeant Mark Ferling from the Kingaroy Rural Crime Squad said Queensland Police Service was receiving a consistent number of complaints of cattle-related crime.
"The complaints range from bush kills - where cattle are illegally slaughtered for meat - through to cattle stealing of anywhere between two head up to 150 head," Det Sgt Ferling said.
"Recently we've taken a complaint in the North Burnett in relation to 120 head of cattle.
"The producer has experienced losses of 30 to 40 head of cattle per year over a number of years."
Detectives are focusing their search on offenders with the ability and resources to commit the brazen act.
The Rural Crime Squad is in regular contact with sale yards, feed lots and meatworks, where they conduct audits to monitor the movement of of cattle in areas they have received complaints.
Mulgildie grazier Lindsay Penny is yet to experience any of his cattle go missing and said he was surprised to hear it was going on in the district.
"For it to happen in such a substantial number in this area is surprising," Mr Penny said.
"Around here, you might hear about one or two going missing because people have smaller places and know their numbers."
But Mr Penny has been around cattle long enough to know the tricks of the trade, and said he was aware of dodgy practices that some in other areas employ to try and pinch a few of their neighbours cattle.
"I lived out west for 10 years and it was a pretty regular occurrence - it wasn't uncommon for 100 to go missing," he said.
"Cattle are worth so much money at the moment.
"When some people get themselves in strife financially they resort to crime.
"Stealing cattle is no different to stealing anything else.
"It's frustrating when you know it's going on."
A cattle theft of the magnitude at Monto would constitute a serious crime.
Police are now tasked with reversing what they perceive as a cultural reluctance among graziers to report rustling.
Detectives said that failure to report would serve only to embolden offenders, who already believe they're getting off scot-free.
"People don't want to be labelled as someone who can't run their place properly," Det Sgt Ferling said.
"We investigate discreetly and treat every complaint seriously, so producers should never feel that way.
"Offenders take advantage of that attitude because they bank on it not being reported.
"It is a major crime and offenders can receive a term of imprisonment of seven years.
"The most important source we utilise is the general public and we rely heavily on people providing us with information."
To secure cattle, police recommend producers regularly inspect fences, use surveillance cameras to monitor areas of concern and report any suspicious activity.