On Sunday 22 May, the Rural Crime Team took part in the Sussex-wide initiative Operation Downsway - this time in Midhurst, Petworth and up to the borders of Hampshire and Surrey.
The aim of the operation is to tackle anti-social behaviour on the road network across Sussex during the lighter months.
The Rural Crime Team has joined these events to support our Roads Policing Unit, but also to add their expertise on stopping rural vehicles such as Heavy Good Vehilces (HGVs), tractors, and quadbikes, as well as targeting waste carriers, Private Goods Vehicles (PGVs) and vehicles with trailer and plant in tow.
During the day, the team picked up the case of a drink driver that had originated from a report of illegal fishing. This investigation is still ongoing.
Alongside this a ticket was issued for construction and usage offences, and four other vehicles were checked for waste licence offences.
On Wednesday 8 June PC Treagust and PC Algar carried out patrols as part of Operation Traverse, prior to the lifting of the closed fishing season on 16 June. Officers conducted joint patrols with the Angling Trust bailiffs, targeting a number of areas including the River Rother, Coultershaw Bridge in Petworth, Fittleworth, South Ambersham, the River Arun at Pulborough, Hardham and Stopham.
Search warrant in Chichester
On Monday 23 May, the West Rural Crime Team conducted a search warrant in relation to abstraction of electricity at a rural address in the Chichester district. Officers attended with Scottish and Southern energy, West Sussex fire and an officer from the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS). Several items were seized whilst conducting the warrant, including a golf buggy which has been linked to a theft from the Metropolitan Police area. The investigation is still ongoing.
This month we have seen a number of heritage crimes across East and West Sussex affecting historic buildings including churches, WWII assets and a historic 11th century house. Offences include criminal damage and theft, as well as reports of anti-social behaviour.
We have seen metals such as lead and brass targeted by criminals. We are working with our partners at The Diocese of Chichester and Ecclesiastical Insurance to ensure we are collectively keeping a close eye and sharing information that will help progress investigations and enable greater crime prevention.
For more information on metal theft please see this excellent advice from Historic England.
Please keep a look out for our heritage environment – if you see or hear anything strange or out of place, please report it at the time, highlighting that it is a heritage crime.
Overnight on Sunday 13 June, thieves struck at St Albans Church in Frant, stealing a significant amount of lead from the roof. The value of the lead, combined with the cost to replace and complete the repairs, is expected to be nearly £50,000.
Such is the scale of this offence, it is believed to have been committed by criminals who operate across the UK as part of an Organised Crime Group (OCG). The Rural Crime Team are leading the investigation in Sussex, working with The Diocese of Chichester and Ecclesiastical Insurance to ensure the appeal for witnesses and support is spread as wide as possible. The investigation is likely to be linked to another significant lead theft in Lewes recently, as well as another church targeted in Chiddingstone in Kent.
Whilst the investigation continues, we are busy working with partners to help protect St Albans and other historic buildings from being targeted.
Metal thefts of this kind not only have a financial value, but also hugely affect our cultural heritage and local communities.
If you have any information that may support the investigation, then please contact us quoting reference 0551 of 13/06.
Small Farm Training Group
PC Pete Hall joined members of the Small Farm Training Group (SFTG) on Friday 17 June, to give a presentation on rural crime prevention. The SFTG, a non-profit organisation, provides training courses in areas such as animal husbandry and land management. They have 150 members across Sussex, Surrey and Kent and hold monthly meetings in Heathfield.
Engagement with groups such as the SFTG is vitally important in raising awareness of rural crime trends and giving advice on farm and small holding security.
The National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) work with forces and partner agencies across the UK, providing valuable support in preventing and detecting crimes that affect our farming communities (amongst others).
NaVCIS have recently partnered with NFU Mutual to produce a number of crime prevention videos. These can be viewed below and we encourage you to watch them.
Cases of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) have unfortunately now been confirmed in some locations across Sussex. The Rural Crime Team have shared safety and reporting advice with partner agency colleagues to help minimise the risk of wider infection. The team carries Defra approved disinfectant for use on our boots and vehicle tyres when on patrol and visiting locations at risk.
We subscribe to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) notification service, which alerts subscribers when there is an exotic notifiable animal disease outbreak in Great Britain. This is a free service and sends a text message with outbreak updates and we have found this extremely useful.