Hampshire launches new approach to tackling rural crime

posted 22 Nov 2013, 07:58 by Yateley NW Sec

Published: Friday, November 15, 2013


A new approach to reducing rural crime and targeting criminality has been launched with a series of warrants across north Hampshire.

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Operation Osprey sees the introduction of a dedicated task force to investigate cross border, rural and crime series offences as well as provide proactive targeting of individuals or organised crime groups involved in committing these crimes.

Led by Detective Inspector Justin Torgout, the team of officers and staff will also work with partners and other agencies to support rural communities and better understand the particular challenges these areas present to rural policing.

The operational activity undertaken is just one aspect of the task force’s approach.

One example of the type of offences being tackled is hare coursing. These offences often involve associated criminal damage to boundary fences on farmland, the destruction of crops and threats or intimidation of landowners. Those involved in poaching are also often linked to other criminality in rural communities.

Another is a new initiative which has been introduced to tackle those who use dogs to poach in rural areas.

Officers can seize dogs which are suspected of being used in poaching or hare coursing activity as dogs used in these offences are considered a factor in the commission of a crime by the offenders.

The dogs are seized as evidence and retained by the police while offences are investigated. Not only does this allow officers to fully assess the use of dogs in these crimes but also prevents further offences being committed. Officers can also apply to the courts for the dogs to be rehomed.

A number of dogs have already been seized and cases are currently going through the court process.

Another initiative being introduced is the trial of a new command and control system which allows staff and officers working in the police control room to access more detailed mapping data to provide an improved response to rural communities.

Officers are working closely with residents to offer crime prevention advice and encouraging them to take steps to secure their homes and vehicles to help reduce their chances of becoming a victim of crime. They are employing a range of covert tactics to catch criminals.
One of these tactics is police trap vehicles, which look like any other vehicle but are fitted with surveillance equipment which is activated if the vehicle is broken into. These vehicles are being used successfully to reduce crime in the rural communities.

A new police inspector dedicated to the rural area has been appointed to work alongside the task force. Inspector Louise Hubble brings a wealth of experience from her involvement with the force’s Countrywatch scheme and will build on her existing strong networks within the rural community to focus on their concerns and deliver new ways of working.

Chief Superintendent Jason Hogg, the force’s strategic lead on rural policing, said: “We are determined to not only target those who commit these crimes but reduce opportunities for crime to take place and make it a hostile environment for travelling criminals.

“We will use the full range of tactics available to us to target and disrupt individuals and groups who clearly demonstrate a propensity for criminality and target vulnerable areas.

“We are also working closely with partner agencies and communicating directly with the networks that exist within the rural community to highlight issues and engage with them to build strong relationships and increase their confidence in our ability to provide a visible policing presence in the areas that matter to them.

“Our communities are vital in helping us tackle crime. They are our eyes and ears and know the areas in which they live. By encouraging them to report any suspicious activity when they see it, we can respond to their concerns and work with them to make their communities even safer.”

Commissioner Simon Hayes said: “Within my Police and Crime Plan I made a commitment to develop my policy on how crime issues that affect rural communities can best be addressed. I also tasked the Chief Constable with the challenge of reducing by 50 per cent the gap in solved crime rates that currently exists between rural and non-rural communities, whilst improving the existing solved crime rates in non-rural areas. 

“I have spent time with Country Watch’s Louise Hubble and seen first hand the efforts being made to achieve these goals to keep rural communities safer. I am further heartened by the work carried out by the task force and the wider work being undertaken to protect those living in rural communities.

“I would add however, that police officers cannot do this alone. It requires the support of rural communities to work with them in partnership by keeping the police updated on what is happening within their neighbourhoods.”

Hugh Oliver-Bellasis, chairman of the force’s strategic Independent Advisory Group, said: “Hampshire Constabulary has made reducing rural crime a top priority. They have made big improvements over the last three years. We look forward to working with the police to help them achieve greater success.”

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