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Champaign launches Farm Watch

New program will help deter crime in rural, agricultural areas.

The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office is taking preventive measures to protect its rural farmers by instituting a new “Farm Watch” program.

The farming community isn’t immune to crime and can become a target due to the remoteness of many farms, said Capt. David Rapp of the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office. The new watch is modeled after the traditional “Neighborhood Watch,” by encouraging residents to watch out for their neighbors.

However, the program goes one step further by connecting commercial businesses and alerting them about thefts in the area so they can be on the lookout for stolen items, Rapp said.

“The implement dealers become more involved with the crime watch,” he said. “We need our area farmers to take that little bit of extra time to … identify property (so) we can get that description out to them if a tractor is stolen and somebody brings it to one of our dealers in Champaign County.”

There are about 1,200 farms in Champaign County, according to the farm bureau. By partnering with the bureau, Rapp said the sheriff’s office now has the ability to contact every farmer via email about crime, statistics and safety tips. It also opens a channel for direct communication between law enforcement and residents.

“If a theft or any type of crime occurs on our farms, we’re able to flag that report and ship it right to the farm bureau, and they’re able to do a mass email to all the farms,” Rapp said.

Those in the “Farm Watch” will be provided signs warning about the watch to help deter criminals. In addition to the email list, a phone tree will be established, and farmers will be provided tips to crime-proof their properties. The idea, Rapp said, is to prevent crime.

Mark Runyan raises pigs on his farm in rural Champaign County. Crime, he said, has a greater effect on the farm because it doesn’t just impact his home but also his livelihood. He depends on the sale of his pigs and the meat products he makes with them for income, and they come with an expensive pedigree.

“The animals we raise for meat production, and actually all of our lines, are imported from Sweden,” he said. “So if something happens to those, it’s not really easy to replace. It could be $10,000 an animal.”

Farmers are being encouraged to watch out for one another and report suspicious activity. Runyan said that provides peace of mind.

“I know in our area there has been quite a few break-ins recently,” Runyan said. “(This) is going to be a way for not just farmers but the neighbors of farmers to keep watch over each other.”

To sign up for crime watch, call the sheriff’s office at (937) 653-3409 or visit

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