Nick Cornea, who farms in the Briercrest area near Moose Jaw, started the Facebook group at the end of February.
It now has more than 13,000 members, as of March 15. The majority are farmers and acreage owners from the three Prairie provinces, but there is growing interest from British Columbia and Ontario.
Cornea says he has received more than 100 personal accounts of theft, ranging from vehicles to fuel.
“I’ve been going through them and categorizing them, whether it’s vehicle theft or vandalism, and going to be printing them all out to take to the levels of government.”
RCMP urge residents impacted by theft to report the incidents so there can be an accurate account of crimes. Cornea says in some instances, farmers and acreage owners don’t believe it’s worth the effort to file a report.
“A lot of the time with fuel thefts, it’s not worth the insurance premiums to go up for the thousand litres of fuel that goes missing in a night.”
Cornea says in some areas, the rise in thefts is related to a downturn in the oil or mining sectors. He emphasizes there are only a ‘few bad apples’ who are responsible.
“When the economy drops and people lose jobs and they are used to a high lifestyle of living, they tend to resort to crime to pay the bills or to get the toys they have lost.”
Cornea says gangs are also responsible for the rise in rural crime.
“It’s young kids that get dropped off to join a gang. They need to come back with a certain amount of property or money. They might be dropped an hour out of town and they go rummaging through vehicles.”
Members on the Farmers Against Rural Crime group can post messages and many want to see stiffer penalties for theft.
“A lot of people like the idea of bringing back work farms or setting up a 60 km/hr zone along the highway and having young offenders clean ditches.”
Cornea says another idea that has been mentioned is the development and training of a volunteer police force to assist RCMP with theft investigations.
“If there was a theft that happened at night that was not caught in progress, these members would be able to go out the next morning. They could take pictures, measurements and start the report for the RCMP. It preserves more of the evidence to help crack down on the crime.”
Cornea says rural RCMP are doing the best they can with current resources.
“We are not bashing them. We know there is only so much they can do in a certain amount of time. Their jurisdictions are so big . . . they won’t arrive in time to stop the perpetrator.”
The RCMP are currently holding town hall and public meetings across the province to address rural crime concerns.