Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles today welcomed the progress being made to tackle wildlife crime and animal cruelty in the county following a number of recent intelligence operations and thanked the RSPCA, RSPB, Peak District Raptor Groups and the Mid Derbyshire Badger Group for their reports.
The Force has received praise from Natural England following a cross-border exercise involving multiple police forces to monitor Hen Harriers and birds of prey in the Derwent Valley area. And it was also behind an operation which led to the prosecution of a businessman who breached wildlife laws when he destroyed a bat roost.
In a new report presented to the Strategic Governance Board on Monday (July 28), Commissioner Charles heard that the Force Wildlife Team had significantly increased its contribution to the national intelligence picture relating to wildlife crime. More than 40 ‘quality’ intelligence items have been passed to the National Wildlife Crime Unit in the past six months which has earned the Force ‘green’ status in the Unit’s traffic light ‘red-amber-green’ system designed to highlight low, medium and high levels of intelligence submissions. The Constabulary is just one of nine forces nationally to be given this rating.
There are currently 22 Wildlife Crime Officers working across Derbyshire Constabulary however the level of resources dedicated to this area of crime is set to increase over the next two years as Special Constables and non-warranted volunteers with a special interest and skills in wildlife crime are recruited. The Force is also set to appoint a full-time co-ordinator who will oversee the Force’s response to wildlife crime and ensure the training of officers.
Commissioner Charles has made no secret of his determination to protect local wildlife and preserve the natural heritage of the county for residents and the thousands of visitors who arrive every year.
Responding to the report, he said: “I’m very encouraged by these developments which demonstrate how seriously we are taking wildlife crime. By strengthening our resources in this area, we’ve not only helped to uncover illegal activity occurring locally but have contributed to the national intelligence picture, which will help drive enforcement and preventative work across the country.
“The strong relationships we have built with our partners have enhanced our detection capabilities. With their ongoing support, I’m confident we can disrupt the illegal practices within our countryside in the long-term and protect our heritage for future generations.
“I’m very determined to show wildlife criminals that the Derbyshire countryside is not an easy target for their crimes. Whatever their activities involve, we will hunt them out, confiscate their illegal gains and restrict their freedom. But we cannot do it alone. We need the public’s help and anyone who has information or who has witnessed suspicious activity is urged to contact police with their concerns.”
So far this year, the RSPB has received reports of a buzzard being shot in Derbyshire, a goshawk being killed by having its legs smashed in a spring trap and the robbery of a peregrine nest containing chicks. But the RSPB believes that these incidents represent ‘the tip of the iceberg’ with many remaining undetected.
Assistant Chief Constable Martyn Bates said: “Due to the nature of the county Derbyshire Constabulary has always been proactive in tackling wildlife crime. This is, in the main, due to our longstanding relationship with partners.
“The force has 22 specially trained wildlife officers, who take on these responsibilities on top of their regular role, and have recently appointed a wildlife crime co-ordinator to improve the service. She will be supported by a Special Constables and other volunteers.”
During April and May this year, the Constabulary worked with a number of partners including the National Trust, the RSPB and Natural England as part of a hen harrier and birds of prey monitoring operation in the Derwent Valley.
The goshawk population in this area has declined from a peak of seven pairs each year in 1997–2001 to now close to extinction. A similar story of decline is seen with the peregrine across the Dark Peak where formerly healthy breeding populations have now collapsed and hen harriers are now all but extinct following repeated persecution. Similar trends are now being seen in other bird of prey species.
During the operation, officers liaised with South Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Police, whose borders lie next to the area of interest, carrying out monitoring work involving neighbourhood policing teams and Wildlife Crime Officers at specific times. In addition, the police aircraft was tasked to carry out thermal imaging work during the hours of darkness at times relevant to the operation. The work was designed to gather intelligence which will help protect these rare birds and has subsequently received praise from Natural England for the partnership approach.
Derbyshire’s Wildlife Crime Officers are now responsible for dealing with heritage crime in the county such as metal detecting on heritage sites without permission, as well as offences against wildlife. This has improved links between police and partners such as English Heritage and ensured that partners have a single point of ‘expert’ contact within the Force for future investigations.
Last year, Commissioner Charles staged a Rural and Wildlife Crime Summit to foster closer relationships between those responsible for protecting wildlife and heritages within the county. One of the issues to arise out of the meeting was the need for a strategic, tactical and operational response to wildlife crime.
The new structure will ensure each policing division in Derbyshire has sufficiently-trained specialists, supported by special constables and volunteers. These will meet three times a year to receive professional development and gain an understanding of current threat and risks.
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Posted on Monday 28th July 2014