Looking back at the Rural Crime Team’s first year

01/06/2021

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Sussex Police’s Rural Crime Team is marking its one year anniversary today (1 June) after it was launched a year ago with the aim of cracking down on unlawful behaviour in isolated and rural communities.

The team has made great progress in tackling rural crime offences and building direct engagement with rural communities in Sussex.

It was made possible with the precept increase, as acquired by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne. The funding has allowed for more enforcement and a greater local policing presence, part of which is rural crime.

The team has a specialist focus on agricultural, equine, wildlife and heritage issues and it was formed to serve the rural community, increase confidence and encourage reporting through preventing crime and carrying out more proactive investigations.

Made up of two sergeants, eight constables and six PCSOs, the team operates out of bases at Midhurst and Heathfield and takes a targeted approach to tackling rural crime based on the needs of each of the three policing divisions of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex.

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As a result of the creation of the team, there are much greater links between police, partners and the farming and landowning communities with increased reporting of crimes and convictions.

Highlights over the last year include:

  • Stronger relationships with people who live and work in rural locations, as well as neighbouring rural crime police teams. 
  • Increased intelligence through increased reporting of crimes.
  • The launch of Op Collar, Sussex Police’s dedicated response to prevent dog thefts and working closely with partner agencies, gathering intelligence and highlighting crime prevention among the dog owning community. The most significant event being the search warrant which was executed and seized numerous dogs believed to be stolen or used for unscrupulous breeding. One of these dogs has already been reunited with her rightful owner, having been stolen over six months ago.
  • Work with partner agencies and lost dog charities to identify the owners of the dogs.
  • Working with partners, such as Brighton and Hove City Council to tackle illegal waste carried in Brighton, and with the National FU and CLA to highlight the dangers of livestock worrying.
  • Tackling local concerns about disturbances and damage to wildlife including grass cutting being carried out on a flood plain in Bramber during nesting season.

Successful convictions include:

  • Two men from London arrested for poaching in the Balcombe area who were found to be in possession of an air rifle with a scope, hunting knives, catapults and ball bearings along with dead pheasants and pigeons. Following an investigation by the team, in April both men were found guilty at court. They were both sentenced to 16-weeks suspended prison sentences for carrying knives in public along with 150 hours unpaid work and 12 month community order.
  • A man who pleaded guilty for a poaching offence in Rye and ordered to pay £199 in fines and costs.
  • A man who admitted night hawking – metal detecting on land without permission from the land owner and intending to steal anything found, in a field near Pulborough. He was summonsed for going equipped to steal and was fined £1,560 and costs.
  • A thorough investigation was carried out after an owner let their dog off the lead which chased a flock of sheep near Brighton resulting in two pregnant ewes dying from stress and injuries. An agreement between the dog owner and the farmer that a community resolution be completed to cover the costs incurred by the farmer. The amount agreed to be paid to the farmer totalled £1,080.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne said: “Through my ongoing consultations with local residents and organisations, including the National Farmers’ Union, I know that the Rural Crime Team are doing amazing work for our more remote communities.

“Rural crime is particularly worrying and, since the Covid-19 lock down, there have been many disturbing reports of fly-tipping and expensive equipment theft.

“Feedback from the rural communities is that they feel their concerns and reports have been taken extremely seriously by the team and that proactive and robust action is being taken to keep them and their livelihoods safe and secure.

“The type of specialist knowledge, skills and training this team possess is vital to police our rural communities and I look forward to hearing more of their successes in the future.”

Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: “The team have had a busy first 12 months with positive results and great feedback from the rural communities.

“We’ve been actively encouraging members of the community to report crime and suspicious behaviour, because with this insight, we are able to deploy the team to where they are most needed in order to protect the most vulnerable. We have a great number of rural residents and businesses in Sussex and we have seen substantial results.”

You can report rural crime online and also anonymously online using The National Farmers' Union's Rural Crime Reporting Line or calling 0800 783 0137, and follow the team on Twitter @SussexRuralCops.