A new way to report rural crime and suspicious behaviour was launched on May 4th (Star Wars Day), sparking puns about ‘may the force be with ewe’.
Rural Lookout is a new Police app being trialed in Waimakariri and Hurunui that enables people to log suspicious activity quickly and easily using a smartphone or via a website.
It is designed to capture incidents that often go unreported, such as illegal hunting, trespassing, drones, deliberate damage, theft of fuel and stock and other suspicious incidents.
The app can be used outside of cellphone coverage. Farmers can tag their location, upload photos, and information that gets sent straight to Police.
A 2021 survey carried out by Federated Farmers found more than half of farmers had been victims of crimes during the past two years. Fuel theft is a big concern, and quad and motorbike thefts are also increasing.
Senior Constable Tony Maw says rural communities are often reluctant or slow to report incidents.
“The ‘number 8 wire’ attitude is strong in our communities,” says Tony. “People often deal with things themselves or think Police are too busy to bother, or they wait to tell us when they bump into us – but then it’s too late.
“By offering an alternative way to report incidents, that’s quick and convenient, hopefully we’ll see an increase in reporting, which will give us a clearer picture of what’s happening in our rural communities.”
All the information submitted via the app will be entered into the police national intelligence database (NIA) and triaged as per normal. The app doesn’t replace 111 in emergencies, nor 105 online.
The Rural Lookout app is part of a two-year trial that aims to increase reporting and take a prevention approach to reducing rural crime. If it goes well, it could be rolled out nationally.
We are dependent on the preliminary findings of the trial to set the future direction, the Project Manager Lisa May says.
“There will be interim findings released every 6 months. We really need the people in the North Canterbury community to use the app to ensure the capability has a strong case for further rollout.”
As well as the app, the trial will utilise geospatial capability to create a rural crime dashboard for the trial area. All reported crime and suspicious activity will be mapped on the dashboard, including card data, NIA occurrences, Rural Lookout reports and CCTV camera locations.
“The first step is to increase reporting. Then, we’ll use geospatial analysis to identify trends and determine what crime prevention measures could be used and where,” Lisa says.
Federated Farmers North Canterbury President Caroline Amyes is also urging Waimakariri and Hurunui rural families to get using the app. The app reporting will enable crime, damage and trespass pattern identification in rural communities, which can help decisions about reducing crime and guide police on where to concentrate their resources.