By Cheshire Police - 23rd January 2020 6:00am
Immigration, theft of historic artefacts, animal rights issues and offensive weapons — these are just some of the matters dealt with by Cheshire Constabulary's newly dedicated rural crime team during its first three months.
The team was established last autumn to protect our communities from rural and wildlife crime and bring those who target these areas to justice.
While Cheshire has had trained rural and wildlife crime officers for some time, the force had never had a unit specifically dedicated to rural and wildlife crime before. The team is made up of a Sergeant, a Detective Constable, six police officers, three PCSOs and volunteers. It is also supported by members of the Special Constabulary.
And the team has been busy, with over 170 rural crimes already investigated, and 15 significant arrests made for a range of offences, including for theft of stone, farm incursions, assaults and public order.
One of the real strengths of the new unit has been its work in relation to hunting, with ongoing engagement undertaken with both pro and anti-hunt supporters. This has included a policing strategy agreed by all parties, and regular face-to-face meetings with representation from all sides to exchange information and share views.
The idea behind this has been to improve understanding in this area and consideration of different viewpoints, and enable officers to better respond to reports of crime arising from this activity.
Chief Inspector Simon Meegan, the force's rural crime lead, said: "The new unit has got off to a fantastic start and is already proving to be a really valuable addition to the Force.
"In particular, their attendance at incidents such as those involving hunting has provided the knowledge and experience that might otherwise be lacking if only regular response officers attended.
"This is particularly important as such incidents can be challenging to respond to, but we feel we've made considerable progress in this area thanks to our ongoing engagement work with both pro and anti-hunt groups to better understand their views and needs.
"I've no doubt that the team will continue to provide their expertise and support in what is a very diverse range of rural and wildlife matters, and that the communities living in those areas are reassured that they have this type of support from the police."
The Constabulary and rural public are now benefitting from an enhanced digital offering which is helping the Force to better respond and investigate rural crime matters. These include a new digital medial upload capability, which benefits all victims and witnesses, and the introduction of the What 3 Words app, which allows officers to pinpoint the exact location of an incident.
Officers in the unit, alongside Reaseheath College, have also delivered specialist training to rural PCSOs to ensure there is greater consistency and knowledge across the Constabulary of rural and wildlife crime matters.
Chief Insp Meegan added: "We believe in engaging with and empowering communities to prevent crime and disorder. Where crime has happened and harm has been caused, whatever form it takes, we'll take it seriously and do what we can to bring offenders to justice. Many people have already engaged with us and I'd like to say thank you to them for their ongoing support.
"If you come across anything concerning or need the police's help, I'd urge you to get in touch with us, whether it's calling us on 999 in an emergency or if there's a crime in action, on 101 or through our website if it's not, or get in touch with your local PCSO whether it's on social media or in person at one of their regular surgeries."