Police have reported a good uptake in North Canterbury of the Rural Lookout crime reporting app with 2,457 app downloads and 167 reports to police between May and August this year.
Launched on May 4, the app enables users to log suspicious activity using a smartphone or via a website.
Nearly half the reports related to a car/person acting suspiciously. Examples of these reports include suspicious cars in the area and drone sightings.
“From these reports we have been able to provide information to the public and plan where and when to increase our presence and patrols,” said Police in a Rural Lookout update.
Burglary and theft from outside areas such as yards and garages targeting items such as trailers, bikes, tools and firewood was reported, as was illegal street racing including burnouts.
A number of reports were received detailing drone activity concentrated over Mandeville and Ohoka.
“We suspected some illegal drone activity was down to ignorance and developed a notice outlining the drone roles delivered within the area and on our Police social media accounts. Since then, reports of drone activity have decreased,” said Police.
Other reports included wilful damage, unlawful hunting, trespass, and graffiti.
Feedback about Rural Lookout had been positive with people saying it was easy to use, increased their confidence in police and that they appreciated a follow up phone call.
Some users suggested the following to improve Rural Lookout:
- The ability to save and view the full Rural Lookout report after it has been submitted.
- The ability to use predictive text when filling out a report.
Once the app has been live for six months, the rural crime prevention team will review all Police reports for North Canterbury to identify ways to help the rural community stay safe. This could include extra security measures for properties in the trial area such as signage, security lights, shed alarms, vehicle locks and fuel tank sensors/alarms.
The trial is being run in Waimakariri and Hurunui. If successful, the app will eventually be rolled out to the rest of New Zealand.
Police also provided some top tips for rural property owners
- Secure sheds, storage areas and outbuildings.
- If you are unable to store trailers and bikes in a secure building, then use a padlock or anchor and chain.
- Mark or engrave tools, vehicles, and other farm property with your driver’s licence number. This is the most effective way to be reunited with your property if it is stolen from you.
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.
There are also concerns from farmers that drones are being operated to ‘case’ farm properties or otherwise intrude on farmer privacy.
Federated Farmers policy staff have developed a member advisory and factsheet that describes the rights a farmer has about third parties operating drones on their farm, as well as the options available to them.