Farmers in NSW are being hit by crime time and again, shocking survey figures show, but world-leading, dedicated policing is "shifting the needle".
UNE Centre for Rural Criminology ran the survey, which found 81 per cent of farmers surveyed in NSW had been a victim of crime at some point.
Of those, nine out of 10 had been targeted on two or more occasions, while nearly two in every five were hit seven times or more.
The survey was completed by 600 farmers and co-director of the Centre for Rural Criminology at the University of New England Dr Kyle Mulrooney, who authored the report, said many had wanted to chat about their answers.
"What really came across was that it's almost just part of doing business," he said.
"And that's sad to me, there shouldn't be an expectation that you are offended against and that you're victimized as you're just trying to go about your job."
The most common crimes were trespass at 56 per cent and illegal shooting or hunting, 46 per cent, while at 44 per cent, close to half of the surveyed farmers had livestock stolen.
Those numbers came as no surprise to Detective Chief Inspector Cameron Whiteside, who runs the Rural Crime Prevention Team.
Formed in 2018, the RCPT has 53 dedicated officers and plans to grow, while also upskilling uniformed officers across NSW.
Because many country police officers are from the city, the RCPT has been running workshops about breeds, paperwork, the value of livestock and even the different social circumstances.
"We've had farmers that are victims who previously had poor experiences with the police to speak at those workshops to highlight the value, not only monetary, but the intimidation aspect of being a victim of a crime in a rural remote area," DCI Whiteside said.
"Unlike a lot of businesses in the urban areas, these businesses are occupied with wives and children.
"If people come to the property spotlighting with firearms or pig dogs, or or just stealing, they are quite vulnerable, so uniformed police that weren't aware of the dynamics in a rural community rethink the way they approach these crimes."
RCPT is running workshops for farmers, too, to help them reduce their vulnerability and build relationships with police.
Both trespassing and illegal shooting were reported at least once only a third of the time. The theft of livestock was reported at least once only 44 per cent of the time.
DCI Whiteside said delays or a lack of reporting were common due to the practicalities involved with maintaining accurate counts of livestock and monitoring equipment that was often spread across properties. There was one other cause he was keen to address.
"The delay in reporting may be for another reason: the lack of faith and confidence in the judiciary and the police," he said.
"The perception of police is that our main focus is in law enforcement but it's equally on prevention of these crimes and we need to assist farmers, without telling them how to suck eggs, to target-harden their properties."
The feedback from farmers has been good, with most telling surveyors the RCPT was a positive development in the fight against rural crime and almost half saying they were more likely to report crime since the advent of the specialised team.
It's also won recognition from peers, leading the National Rural Crime Intelligence Group that meets monthly to share intelligence and rural crime fighting strategies, and sharing its knowledge with police forces around the world.
"I don't think it's an exaggeration at all to say that New South Wales is definitely the national leader but it's definitely leading internationally in many ways," Dr Mulrooney said.
"It's very early days but the outcomes seem rather positive in terms of farmer awareness, interaction, and greater levels of satisfaction with the police and levels of reporting.
"We're seeing them shift that needle that, I would argue, hasn't budged for a very long time."
Of the surveyed farmers, 43 per cent said the RCPT meant they were more likely to report crime and 73 per cent who had encountered the RCPT were either satisfied or highly satisfied with their experience.
Dr Mulrooney said fighting rural crime effectively meant the gap between farmers and police had to be bridged.
"Policing can't be done without people but that's especially accentuated in a rural environment where there's just simply not the capacity for an immediate police response, you need farmers to buy in, farmers to trust you," he said.
"The data in the survey also shows farmers really want to play a key role, but that kind of past conflict and, I guess, souring of the relationship over time has really caused those parties to drift apart.
"I think we're seeing those parties start to begin to trust each other once again and come back to the table together to address the issue."
NSW Farmers Rural Affairs Committee chair Garry Grant said the farm lobby had made gains with farm trespass laws and was "satisfied" the NSW Government had implemented positive strategies since the release of the Bradshaw report.
"Farmers also have a responsibility to secure their properties and that's why NSW Farmers has worked closely with the NSW Rural Crime Prevention Team," he said.
"The joint delivery of a series of rural crime workshops across NSW has increased awareness of the risk of rural crime and delivered sound advice to farmers on the best ways to protect their farms, livestock, and their families."