Operation Lambswool saw officers spend two weeks working directly with farmers to establish offending patterns and vehicles to disrupt rural offenders.
Reports showed that poaching, trespassing, crop damage and killing hares on farmland over the winter months, had been happening on and off for a number of years.
“Offenders were trespassing on land in vehicles causing criminal damage to crops, killing hares and suspected other wildlife,” explains Chloe Radford-Gardner.
“Farmers felt they were not being listened to by police so the problem was being under-reported.”
It was suspected that those responsible were linked to more serious incidents, with poaching giving offenders an opportunity to look around farms to commit further crimes.
Each evening police cars deployed and met with the farmers for a briefing: it was essential to directly involve the farmers to develop the relationship between these communities and the police, to ensure that there is confidence in crime reporting.
Anti-poaching legislation gave the police stop, search and seizure powers with the intention to report the offenders for summons and seize equipment and vehicles.
“We established the most likely time the offences were happening and identified the route and fields targeted and vehicles responsible,” says PC Radford-Gardner.
“The farmers would deploy to vantage points where they could best see their land from a safe distance and look for lamp light on land or suspect vehicles.”
Marked police vehicles would park just outside the area and if an unmarked police vehicle was available they would patrol the area too.
The main arterial roads in the area are simple and circular, meaning that the operation was contained within 2 square miles.
If the farmers saw anything they would ring officers direct. Police would then deploy to the area while the farmers would stay where they were to maintain their safety.
However, mobile phone signal was not strong in the area, so an improvement to further operations on this scale would be to use police radios to assist farmers and better identify exact locations.
Signs were put out advising those in the area that police are aware that poaching is taking place and that it is being monitored.
To date, there have not been any further incidents of poaching in the area.
There will be a reassessment of this crime after the harvest period, a time which may provide opportunities for further criminality.
Chloe Radford-Gardner says the teamwork approach helped ensure the operation’s success.
“We would not have been as successful without the farmers help.”
Identifying the problem
Prior to the two week operation, crimes had been reported almost weekly for six weeks and so we were satisfied that the two week period would give us a good opportunity to catch those responsible and have a positive impact to stop the weekly pattern.
Farmers were reporting poaching, offenders were trespassing on land in vehicles causing criminal damage to crops and killing hares and suspected other wildlife. Farmers felt not listened to by police so it also went under reported .
We suspected that those responsible were linked to rural crime whilst poaching. Poaching and trespassing gave the poachers the opportunity to have a look around farms to commit other crimes.
Legislation changes - Existing
Night Poaching Act 1828
Hunting Act 2004
Poaching Prevention Act 1862
This legislation gave us stop, search and seizure powers and the intention was to report the offenders for summons and seize equipment and vehicles.
Legislation changes - New
I would like to be able to crime wildlife offences and see tougher penalties.
We established the most likely time the offences were happening and identified the route and fields targeted and the vehicles responsible.
Each evening police cars deployed and met with the farmers for a briefing. The farmers would deploy to vantage points where they could best see their land from a safe distance and look for lamp light on land or suspicious vehicles.
Marked police vehicles would park just outside the area and if an unmarked police vehicle was available, they would patrol.
If the farmers saw anything they would ring the officers direct who would deploy to the area.
The farmers would stay where they were to maintain their safety.
The main thing that worked really well was was the direct involvement of the farmers. This has also built a stronger relationship between them and the local officers.
We would not have been as successful without the help from the farmers.
What didn't work
Mobile phone signal was a problem and so radios would be better between farmers and police next time. This did not prevent us from doing the operation, it just meant that when stationary we had to check that we had phone signal.
We have prevented crime and to date there have not been any further incidents of poaching in this area.
Signs have been put up advising those in the area that we are aware that poaching is taking place and that it is being monitored.
The signs will be removed at the end of April and the situation will be reassessed after harvest.
We have seen a greater awareness of rural crime amongst our police colleagues who have not dealt with these offences before.
The Operation went very well and had the desired outcome. It was quite straightforward and so I would not change anything at this time.
I am aware that for different locations we may need to adapt how we operate as on this occasion we were fortunate to have good vantage points, a simple circular road network all within two square miles and so it was easy to contain activity, if required.