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PONTIAC - It's Crime Stoppers in the country.

A new program designed to encourage people to report crimes committed against farmland and other agriculture-related property in rural areas was announced Friday by the Livingston County Farm Bureau and Sheriff's Department.

Farm Bureau Manager Teresa Grant-Quick said she hopes the program reduces crime in rural areas because vandals know people are watching.

"There is a lot of crime in rural areas statewide," she said. "We hope the program and signs discourage anyone from committing a crime."

A $1,000 reward will be paid to an informant who provides a tip leading to a felony conviction. Farmers can post signs on their property saying they support the program.

Livingston County Sheriff Bob McCarty said farmers need to make sure machinery and other equipment, like anhydrous ammonia tanks, are secure.

"Farmers who even notice a little bit of anhydrous ammonia missing should report it," he said. "Overall, the crime rate is down, but we can be safer. We still have work to do."

Livingston County is one of 36 counties that are taking part in the statewide program through the Illinois Farm Bureau. It began this year.

The program mimics one the organization operated in the 1970s that lasted about 10 years. Members paid 10 cents per year and displayed a Farm Bureau decal saying their farm was under watch.

Farmers are encouraged to be proactive in preventing crimes by locking and shutting items, as well as providing good lighting.

Brad Schmidgall, a young leader with the Livingston County Farm Bureau, said the program will be important for farmers who may lose equipment to criminals.

"If you lose a $350,000 combine, that is a huge loss," he said. "Hopefully, just having the sign, will be enough to stop a crime."

Farmers are also asked to post the $1,000 reward signs on their property and call the police when a crime is committed.

Members can pick up metal signs and stickers at the Farm Bureau office in Pontiac for $3. They are also available today at The Prairie Central Farm Show in Forrest.

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