Tisbury's local PCSO Neil Turnbull, who is based at the Nadder Centre, and his colleague PC Richard Salter described how the Police are working against wildlife crime as part of a national policy that includes all kinds of rural and heritage crime.
The slides used for the presentation, including links to videos on Stopping badger crime, rural Theft and Hare coursing are here.
Wildlife crime includes badger, bat and raptor persecution, deer, fish and freshwater mussel poaching and hare coursing.
The statistics are of course pretty alarming in terms of the cost to businesses and homeowners in rural areas, and one of the problems is that it's under-reported. However, there is a nationwide policy agreed by the National Police Chiefs Council which is addressing the problem head on.
For example, Richard described the current Operation Artemis focusing on the A303 in the Hindon area. The A303 is popular as an access and potentially quick getaway route with criminals who come from all parts of the country. Because of this, the Police flood a one particular area with vehicles and officers and if they spot a car that fits a certain profile - eg a remote registration address or no insurance - they can take appropriate action to prevent the coursing or other crime. As well as the local Police, they can also call on the MOD Police for assistance, who have the same powers of arrest etc.
And we can help with reporting: I was once walking near Fovant, and saw a number of cars entering a field with dogs running about. I suspected it might be hare coursing but didn't know what to do. Now I do: I should have rung 999, which you do to report a suspected crime actually taking place.
Richard told the tale of a farmer in the Wylye Valley who had spotted hare coursing and did just that. A helicopter was called in that followed the cars up onto Salisbury Plain. There, the drivers swopped vehicles and set off down the A36 - into the arms of Salisbury Police who had been mobilised to catch them.
They also explained how on mainland Europe rivers and their stock are not generally in private ownership, so anyone can fish. Here, I guess most people know this isn't the case, and there are often signs saying such and such a location is only for members of a fly fishing club. The Police are working with the Angling Trust and Water Bailiffs to counter this.
Photo: Barn owl
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