As a former police detective and one of the foremost experts in terrorism and extremist groups, John Sancenito understands that it’s hard for people, especially farmers who have the tendency to be self-reliant, to involve the police when a break-in occurs at the farm.
Having investigated hundreds of break-ins, he says this is especially true if the damage or loss is minor.
“Contacting the police accomplishes three things that may not be apparent at first,” Sancenito says. “It allows for the collection of potential evidence. It documents the fact that a crime occurred as part of an official record. And it may be related to a pattern of activities.”
When authorities arrive, provide them with the circumstances and conditions that led up to the incident, he advises.
“Remain at the scene and set aside time to talk with the responding officer. Please be patient as response times could be delayed, especially in rural areas. They will want to talk to whoever discovered the crime as well as those who were in the area last,” he says.
He offers eight things farmers should do when the police arrive on the scene.
1. Share events in chronological order and give the officer time to take notes.
2. If anyone entered or altered the scene, tell the office about it.
3. Provide information on any suspicious individuals, vehicles, or events, no matter how trivial they may seem.
4. Ask the officer for a business card. If he does not have one, ask him for his name and contact information.
5. Ask about the next stops and confirm if they will be following up themselves or if a detective will be assigned.
6. Do not be afraid to follow up with additional information or to ask for an update on the investigation. You may not realize immediately that property was stolen or damaged.
7. Provide them with any video, pictures or documentation they may ask for.
8. Keep in mind that the initial responding officer may not be the one who follows up on the case.
In rural areas especially, remember that not all police agencies have the same manpower and resources. Small departments may not have a detective division and the patrol officers may be the sole investigating officer, he says.
“Television has led everyone to believe that all departments have crime scene investigation departments who process every scene looking for fingerprints and DNA samples. The reality is that most patrol officers lack this equipment, and property crimes may not authorize them to request additional assistance,” Sancenito says.
But don’t let these factors deter you from reporting crimes on your farm, he encourages.
“Farms are a critical part of our communities and crimes against them need to be reported so proper resources can be dedicated to protecting them,” he says.