THE Victorian Government's rural crime squad has not resulted in more prosecutions, new statistics have revealed.
In fact, the rate has gone backwards since Victoria Police established the Livestock and Farm Crime Specialist Group in October 2011, fulfilling a Coalition Government election promise.
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Last March The Weekly Times revealed the rural squad did not have any full-time officers and was made up of about 45 agricultural liaison officers with other roles and responsibilities.
According to Victoria Police figures, seen by The Weekly Times, only 12 offenders were prosecuted in 2011-12, three less than the 15 charged the previous financial year.
This amounts to a 3 per cent prosecution rate for the 344 livestock thefts in 2011-12 - less than when the livestock and rural crime group didn't exist.
The new statistics also revealed the livestock stolen, which included 356 cattle and 6292 sheep, was worth $1.94 million, up from $1.5 million the previous year.
A rural detective and a rural crime squad member, who didn't want to be named, said he wasn't happy he had to juggle the rural role with his main job which involved serious incidents.
"I investigate burglary, assaults, look after registered sex offenders, parole breaches and everything that comes with the role," the officer said.
"We are juggling jobs - you have to prioritise, if I have a serious offence against a member of the public, it will take precedence."
Those on the police rural stakeholder committee, which includes the Victorian Farmers Federation and Livestock Saleyards Association of Victoria, continued to support the initiative despite the poor prosecution rate.
VFF livestock president Ian Feldtmann (pictured) said he strongly supported the establishment of more than 45 agricultural liaison officers throughout the state and wasn't worried about prosecution statistics.
"What we are really pleased with is the working relationship (between the police and VFF)," Mr Feldtmann said.
LSAV executive officer Mark McDonald said it was too early to make judgments about the squad, but acknowledged full-time officers would be better.
A spokesman for Police Minister Peter Ryan said judging "the livestock squad, which has been in place 15 months, by the number of prosecutions alone is simplistic and potentially misleading".