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1409 PD: Danger is lurking, protect your dairy

Alisa Anderson Published on 18 September 2009

“In the ag industry we have very trusting individuals. Unfortunately, there are individuals out there that want to take advantage of that,” says Ryan Jacobsen, a representative from the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Recent events involving animal rights activists have made it clear that dairy producers need to become more aware of visitors coming and going on their farms.

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Crime is becoming more of a problem in rural areas. Biosecurity is also becoming more of a concern. For these reasons dairy producers need to take action to ensure that their animals, employees and equipment are kept safe.

Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

Know your state’s trespassing laws
“My recommendation is everybody should be familiar with the trespassing laws in their own state,” says Ria de Grassi, the animal health and welfare specialist at the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Trespassing laws vary from state to state. A good resource to contact is a local Farm Bureau. Follow any guidelines in the law, such as posting trespassing signs at certain intervals, because this will give a producer more legal weight in court.

Report everything
When someone does see suspicious activity, it is important to report it to law enforcement.

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“Report everything regardless of the severity of it. It may just be a little incident, and producers may not think it is of interest to law enforcement because it is not that important. But it may be the connecting factor for several other crimes or a pattern of activity, so make sure you report everything,” says Tim Wilmer, a representative from the Agricultural Crime Technology Information and Operations Network.

Documenting and recording evidence is important when reporting. A description of the person, license plate numbers, location, time of day and description of the vehicle are some basic things that are important to note, but are often forgotten in the excitement of the moment.

Wilmer suggests that producers keep a note pad and a camera nearby to document evidence.

“Just about everybody’s cell phone has a camera on it. You could take a picture of the car and the individuals,” Jacobsen suggests.

According to de Grassi, it is also important to not make any kind of physical contact with a trespasser. This can also give a producer more legal weight if there should be a problem.

Employees should be told to watch out for people that don’t belong on the dairy. Employees should be instructed to go up to any stranger and ask them if they need anything and what they are looking for.

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“Your dairy employees are your eyes and ears. Make sure they’re helping you do everything you can do to protect your operation,” Jacobsen says.

Tim Wilmer suggests that employers set up an incentive program to encourage employees to report suspicious activity.

“In a lot of circumstances, it is a burden to them to get involved in any kind of criminal justice system, such as being a witness. And it is going to be a lot of time on their part that they will have to dedicate to being aware. It may just be a one-time bonus where if you do report something and it turns out to be important,” Wilmer says.

Get to know local law enforcement
Developing a good relationship with local law enforcement can be important later when a problem arises. Make an effort to talk with local officers that you see regularly. When a local officer is familiar with the producer and the employees at the dairy, they can more easily recognize when something is not right.

“If something does come up, having a prior established relationship, they’re more likely to treat the call at a higher level of priority,” de Grassi says.

Wilmer also suggests that producers attend local Farm Bureau safety meetings where law enforcement officers will be attending. Producers should let officers know who they are and where their facilities are. Producers can also host meetings for rural safety programs.

Limit access to the facility
Ria de Grassi suggests that producers limit access to their facility. Although it is usually impossible to fence all their property off, producers can establish rules that all visitors must check in at an office. It is best, if it is possible, for the office to be as close to the main entrance point as possible.

“That way you know who’s entering your property, when and where,” she says.

Although farms should remain friendly and continue to host tours, tour requests should be brought to management to be approved. Always take a name and phone number, and if the request sounds suspicious, don’t hesitate to check up on it.

Harden the target
“Harden the target. If a criminal is going to commit a crime, they’re going to commit that crime, regardless of what you do. However, if that criminal is going through a parking lot and they’re going from car to car looking for something to break into, and they see a car with a blinking red light on the dash, they’re going to think twice before going to that one because the one next to it may not have the blinking red light,” Wilmer says.

Things that can be done to harden the target include everything that was mentioned above. Know what could potentially be a target or when the facility could be vulnerable because no one is around.

Installing surveillance cameras at strategic points can help harden the target at times when no one is at the facility. Producers should do all they can to make their facilities less vulnerable.

Trust your instincts
“There is probably a lot to be said for people trusting their instincts. If it sounds like something that is suspicious, it probably is. If you believe something is suspicious, report it to law enforcement,” de Grassi says.

Jacobsen says he believes that producers are just becoming more complacent, not that crime is really increasing. So it is important to become more aware and to implement important safety protocols.

Doing so can prevent a lot of grief in the future. PD

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