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Rural police back on the Wiltshire beat

Twenty new Wiltshire rural and wildlife crime officers will be trained to tackle crimes in the countryside — thanks to a partnership with rural organisations.

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A joint endeavour by Wiltshire Police and rural groups, including the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), has put 20 dedicated rural officers back on the beat in the county after they were dropped following budget cuts.

Police rural and wildlife crime officers are specially trained to understand the unique and complex issues surrounding crimes in the countryside. Officers from the Wiltshire force were sent on a course covering the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the Poaching Prevention Act, trapping and the economic benefits of shooting, held by the NGO free of charge.

Rural partnership

A Rural Crime Partnership group was established in October to bring together stakeholders, including the NGO, CLA and National Farmers’ Union, with
a vested interest in tackling rural crime in the county. NGO regional chairman Nick Stiff told the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson, that wildlife officers were an absolute necessity and highlighted a surge in poaching and hare coursing in Wiltshire since the cuts.

As a result of the partnership, funding has been secured to train up to 20 new Wiltshire rural and wildlife crime officers, who will work as part of the community policing teams to offer support and advice on rural matters.

Mr Stiff said: “We are very encouraged that Wiltshire Police has worked with us and other organisations to help in the fight to tackle rural crime, which unfortunately has affected many of our members in the county. We will continue to help the police in reducing rural criminality and would urge members to report all incidents by calling 101. This will help police in helping the keepering community.”

Tackling poachers

PC Marc Jackson, operational lead for rural crime with Wiltshire Police, commented: “The introduction of the Rural Crime Partnership within Wiltshire has helped us to focus our limited resources on crimes that affect our rural communities.

“As the police lead for wildlife crime, I work closely with the NGO and its members to identify areas that are being affected by poaching and seek to address the effects this activity has on estates and the community.

“We periodically run operations across the county alongside landowners, farmers and gamekeepers under OP Engage, an operation that aims to disrupt poaching and rural crimes within Wiltshire.

“We also work closely with neighbouring forces, as the individuals and groups involved in poaching do not recognise county borders, so the sharing
of intelligence is key.”