Rural Task Force team ‘leading the way on wildlife crime’ in the UK

Assistant Chief Constable Darren Downs, at Humberside Police, has spoken about the proactive work its Rural Task Force team carry out and the vital role CrimeStoppers play in the fight against crime.

Saturday, 21st August 2021, 12:00 pm
Humberside Police has changed the way it operates on rural crime, moving away from being purely demand-driven.

From the recently launched Rural Task Force in the East Riding, to dedicated Wildlife Crime Officers and rural-trained patrol officers across different areas, the force ‘is leading the way on wildlife crime in the UK’.

The police chief said: “Our force area covers both urban and rural areas; however, in recent years we have changed the way we police, moving away from being purely demand-driven.

“We have a much-improved understanding of the impact of crime and the vulnerabilities rural communities face, so we have dramatically increased our policing presence in rural areas and the number of officers we have trained specifically around wildlife and rural issues.

“Our key focus areas are not only determined by local patterns, but often rural crime has distinguishable patterns nationally and can be based on seasonality.

“Some of the offence types we commonly see are: machinery thefts, equine crime, poaching, livestock theft and fly-tipping.

“To tackle these crimes, we have a dedicated Rural Task Force who spend their days engaging with farmers and residents of rural areas, investigating those under suspicion of rural offences, offering crime prevention advice to communities and raising awareness of offence types and what people can do if they spot something suspicious, or become a victim themselves.

“We also have a number of initiatives to raise awareness or prevent rural crime such as: Horse Watch, designed for horse owners or enthusiasts to come together to discuss and learn more about equine crime and how to prevent it; Operation Seabird, a joint operation involving the RSPB, the Coastguard and other partners which looks to prevent, educate and resolve issues concerning protected sea life and coastal crime; and Operation Galileo, dedicated poaching and hare coursing patrols.

“We have also been pursing using innovative technology to prevent crime or identify those at the heart of it, like unique tracing paint which can be painted on lambs or livestock to make it easier to find those responsible for thefts.

“The need for information is much greater within rural communities, as often they can feel isolated and disengaged in comparison to their neighbouring urban areas.

“Equally, those living in rural areas may not want to contact police, through fear that would identify them to criminals and make them more vulnerable.

“It’s essential that we continue to engage and educate people living in rural areas about the types of crimes that take place in their area, how they can protect themselves from criminals and importantly, how they can report information that could help us to take action against those causing harm.

“Rural crime is usually an area that we don’t receive as much intelligence about, which makes it harder for the Rural Task Force to tackle the true issues, which can leave the public feeling frustrated that they haven’t had the response they expected.

“That’s why we are supporting the Crimestoppers rural crime campaign. We understand that for some, speaking directly to police is not an option; however, Crimestoppers provides a completely independent and anonymous service, meaning you can give information that can help us to solve problems, in the knowledge that you will remain unidentified.

“Intelligence is crucial to inform what we do and who we investigate. It protects our communities to make living, working and enjoying rural areas safer for everyone. Any information we receive can help us build up bigger pictures of the key issues at any one time, so that we can focus our efforts on what matters to the rural communities.

“We routinely use intelligence provided through Crimestoppers to inform our professional practice, resourcing, and tactical activity and it really does make a difference. We hope that by Crimestoppers bringing attention to the issue of lack of reporting of rural offences, this will play a significant part in any future success, with you, the community, in providing information.”

When you give information to the police, please consider some of the key points below:

○ Specific details about an individual or group; names and descriptions etc. if you know them.

○ Specific location – you can use what3words to provide a more detailed location in particularly isolated areas.

○ Vehicle details – colour, markings, and registration numbers.

○ Specific timings and activities from the crime.