The passion that Derbyshire people have for protecting wildlife from crime is highlighted by Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles in a report that tells of a variety of policies led by him and fellow Commissioners in response to public demand.
In the words of 13 Labour Commissioners, the Fabian Policy Report tells of work being done now and of their plans for the future. Letting in the Light is edited by Vera Baird, Commissioner for Northumbria. Among her points is the challenge her colleagues around the country face in getting the most benefit for the public in times of very tight public finances.
Writing about his focus on the eradication of wildlife crime in Derbyshire and beyond, Commissioner Charles says that during the elections in 2012 he was lobbied more about wildlife crime than any other single issue. In response, he pledged to prioritise this area of crime alongside six other key areas. “Wildlife crime has far-reaching implications for our county and the police are committed to investigating it,” he says.
His concerns, which reflect those of the public, include fox hunting with hounds, badger baiting and the very much active illegal ‘netting’ of wild birds.
“Once captured, these birds are being kept in appalling conditions before being sold on by criminals, one of whom was jailed for 18 weeks and banned from keeping any animals for 12 years.” He goes on: “Areas which were once alive with wildlife are now deserted. Breeding pairs of goshawks and peregrine falcons are virtually extinct over the Peak District grouse moors but thrive in similar habitats in nearby areas. The most likely cause is persecution by unscrupulous criminals.” One of these, a Derbyshire gamekeeper, was convicted of taking a sparrow hawk and operating a trap with a live pigeon as bait.
Today, Derbyshire has police officers and special constables dealing with wildlife crime in each of the three policing divisions – part of a wildlife crime investigation team that has evolved since Mr Charles’s election. He now looks forward to the recruitment of Special Constables and volunteers who will act as ‘eyes and ears’ across the county, and awareness campaigns recruiting the county’s millions of visitors.
“Additionally, we want our rural communities to have the confidence to report any concerns they have about offences in their local areas, including theft of agricultural machinery and diesel as well as wildlife crime. The more reports we receive, the richer the intelligence the Force can develop,” the Commissioner advises. With the links between wildlife criminals and serious organised crime becoming clear, the police need to develop the information necessary to tackle them.
Mr Charles is now planning to work in the future with local and national wildlife organisations and MPs to bring about changes to legislation to further protect endangered species.
He believes that raising the profile of wildlife crime in Derbyshire has sent “a very clear message to criminals intent on destroying wildlife that Derbyshire police and its partners are taking this very seriously.”
The Fabian Policy Report is available via http://www.fabians.org.uk/publications/letting-in-the-light/. “I was delighted to contribute to the report which provides a useful picture of the breadth of work undertaken by Commissioners in the fight against crime in different parts of the country.” Mr Charles commented.
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Posted on Tuesday 12th August 2014