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Countryside Watch launches to mark national rural crime day of action

Derbyshire police is launching a dedicated Countryside Watch educational campaign to help protect our rural communities from crime.

The launch of the scheme is timed to coincide with the national rural crime day of action, which sees forces across England and Wales focusing on this area of criminality throughout the day today.

Countryside Watch is an educational campaign that aims to shine a light on the crimes that very often go unseen, unreported, uninvestigated and undetected.

A Force Spokesperson said; "We hope that through it, we will see an increase in reports of wildlife and rural related crime in Derbyshire. We will also be using it to provide information to people who visit Derbyshire for recreational and business purposes, such as the rural crime problems we are facing, the impact that type of crime has on the area, and the conservational efforts going on in our county.

Recreational user groups such as mountain bikers, canoeists, astronomers, recreational vehicle users, climbers, horse riders, ramblers, fell runners and anglers, will be encouraged to share the message on their social media accounts and specialist interest magazines.

Those visiting through business will also be implored to help, such as taxi drivers passing through in the early hours, or goods vehicles on the many arterial routes – helping us with information such as suspicious vehicles in remote areas.

One area of Derbyshire, the Peak District - to which we carry the greatest responsibility for in terms of geographical jurisdiction – sees more than 12 million visitors a year who all come to enjoy what the landscape has to offer.

Sergeant James Shirley, who leads our Rural Crime Team, said: “Unfortunately among the millions of visitors we have in Derbyshire each year, there are a small minority who come to commit crime and take advantage of its remote wilderness.

“With little by way of natural surveillance, it’s not surprising crime can go unseen and with thousands of square miles, unfortunately despite our best efforts police cannot be everywhere at all times.

“The aim of Countryside Watch is to employ those 12 million eyes and more, and hone them in on what to look for.

“These groups visit the countryside in all weathers, day and night, and will greatly increase that natural surveillance that’s required to help us protect our rural communities and the wildlife we are privileged to have here.”

Derbyshire Rural Crime team will be working in partnership with a wide range of organisations, including the Peak District National Park Authority and the National Trust, to promote the issues we face.

Initially it’s a case of requesting people who visit Derbyshire Countryside to follow the Rural Crime Team on Facebook to see what the team is up to, and what their aims are.

We also want groups to contact us so we can work with them, providing information on what to look out for by the way of bite-size articles and email updates.

We are asking for groups to make contact with us and affiliate with this scheme, by putting information on their websites and social media, and help to promote Countryside Watch when out and about in the rolling hills of Derbyshire.

Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has championed the needs of rural communities since his election.

He said:  “Rural crime costs the economy millions of pounds every year, not only jeopardising business survival but undermining the confidence and feelings of safety of those who make their home in the countryside. 

“In order to cut rural crime the police need information and for that, they need the help of local communities.  To encourage people to get involved, we must raise awareness of problems and encourage people to report their suspicions.  We also need to keep people informed of what is happening where they live, which is why I have financed the reinstatement of the Derbyshire Alert messaging system, which has proved so popular with rural neighbourhoods.

“I am also working hard alongside our countryside partners to identify new and innovative ways to prevent rural crime and deliver a better response to those who live in the countryside.”

Sarah Fowler, chief executive for the Peak District National Park said: “We’re pleased to be working alongside the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s office and officers on the ground in this initiative, to ensure the Peak District National Park is a safe place not only for local communities and visitors, but also for the wildlife that calls the National Park home.

“Working in partnership with the police and others is crucial to us moving towards a National Park where wildlife crime and persecution can be confined to the history books. Criminal activity in all its forms; whether against wildlife, local livelihoods or those visiting us, has no place in a modern National Park as we approach the 70th year of our founding legislation.

“We continue to encourage anyone who suspects a crime has been committed within the National Park to contact the police via Crimestoppers, and keep up to date via Derbyshire Police’s social media channels as part of Countryside Watch.”

To follow the rural crime team on Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/ruralcrimeteam/. They are also on Twitter at @DerbyshireRCT.

Rural Crime priorities:

  • Theft of farm machinery, plant and vehicles.
  • Livestock offences such as attacks, theft and worrying.
  • Fuel theft, equine crime and industrial fly tipping.
  • Priority wildlife crime areas:
  • Badger Persecution - badger baiting to the avoidable sett disturbance/destruction which can occur when people carry out otherwise legal operations on land such as forestry or agricultural tasks.
  • Bat Persecution - the disturbance or destruction of bat roosts.
  • Raptor persecution - this is a prevalent issue for us in Derbyshire. It includes poisoning, shooting, trapping, habitat destruction and nest destruction/disturbance. In the UK, birds of prey are a protected species and therefore any criminal offences committed against these species are covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  • Poaching with dogs and fish poaching - this includes hare coursing with dogs, and unlicensed fishing from our rivers, waterways and reservoirs.

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