Sheep worrying in Heath and Reach and driving offences in Slapton/Billington are among the early successes for a dedicated rural crime team that was officially launched last week by Bedfordshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway.
Operation Sentinel Rural consists of an Inspector, police Sergeant, four PCs and four PCSOs, and has been created by Bedfordshire Police to tackle crime in the more remote areas of the county.
Commissioner Holloway has worked closely with the Force in supporting plans to form a dedicated rural team. The PCC said: “I promised a new emphasis on rural crime and a much fairer deal on policing, whether you live in the town or country, in my Police and Crime Plan and that’s what’s being delivered. Make no mistake this isn’t Old MacDonald policing it’s about a 21st century approach to rural crime and capturing evidence which can stand up in court.
“ That’s why the team is backed by a drone which can take high resolution video and photos so if you’re fly-tipping, poaching on an industrial scale or wrecking crops on your off-road bikes, this team is on your trail because these crimes aren’t just a nuisance, they ruin lives in country communities and cost farmers their livelihoods.”
The Commissioner thanked the National Farmers’ Union for the support given to Bedfordshire Police in setting up the team and passing on information about crime concerns.
She said: “The NFU have been outstanding and have helped to provide a rural network to supply police with the vital intelligence needed to make the most of the new team and justify the Force creating it in the first place.
In fact, I understand Bedfordshire’s NFU representative, Jim McKeane is even volunteering to become a Special Constable and I hope that encourages others to train and establish more pockets of effective policing, with full warranted powers, throughout the county, especially in its most remote corners.”
Op Sentinel Rural was announced by the PCC and the Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, at the Rural Crime Conference in December 2016. The team will tackle issues that cause the greatest harm to the countryside and rural communities across the county, including hare coursing, fly-tipping, hunting, sheep worrying and dispersing traveller encampments.
Commenting on the launch was Inspector Mark Farrant who leads Op Sentinel Rural for Bedfordshire Police: “If it’s an issue that matters to our rural communities, then it matters to us, and this new initiative will see us clamp down on those causing issues.
“We are a highly motivated team which is determined to make a difference and provide a positive impact to the rural communities of Bedfordshire. We will work closely with partner agencies to deliver a holistic and comprehensive response.”
To date the rural team has responded and dealt with sheep worrying incidents across Bedfordshire, particularly in the Heath and Reach areas. Officers have used their powers (under Section 61 of the Crime Justice and Public Order Act), to remove an unlawful encampment in Dunstable, and executed a police warrant following animal welfare concerns at a farm in Poddington.
The team has received additional training in identifying and proactively tackling rural issues with nominated officers who lead in specific areas and drone technology, which have the ability to capture high-definition video and take high-resolution photographs.
The equipment can also be used to assist in the search for missing people, document crime scenes and chemical incidents and support fatal and serious collision investigations.
Additionally, whilst working in partnership with Hertfordshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police, the Op Sentinel Rural team held two days of action against driving offenders.
Using the Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system in the Slapton and Billington areas, 19 vehicles were seized for driving with no insurance, three people were dealt with accordingly for theft offences, and one person was arrested for drink-driving.