July 2021

Seasonal overview

As the weather warms up our livestock farmers are busy shearing their flocks of sheep and de-horning calves.

Hay making and silaging also begins at pace.

In arable farming crop spraying prior to harvest takes up a lot of the farmers’ time.

This activity will likely result in more tractors and livestock trailers on our roads and specialist equipment seen in fields. This also means we may see increase in reported thefts of farm equipment and we suggest that it is securely locked away each night.

In wildlife, we will all begin to hear the recognisable sound of grasshoppers and crickets in meadows and gardens as males vie for the attention of potential mates.

Owl chicks are starting to venture out of nests and onto nearby branches as the get braver whilst our native snake species like adders and grass snakes can be spotted basking in the sun on hot days.

As the days get warmer more people are enjoying our beautiful countryside and more also visit our wonderful heritage sites.

This uplift in footfall however can cause damage to protected land as well as the increase in anti-social behaviour.

Introduction from Inspector Oli Fisher

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I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the new Rural Crime Team Inspector.

I’ve been in post for three weeks. In that time I have attended numerous events to listen to the views of rural communities.  

My vision for the unit is one driven by intelligence so we can ensure we are in the right place at the right time. That means doing three things:

1) Gather information from communities and businesses to understand the core issues.

2) Identify who is responsible.

3) Work with our partners to bring offenders to justice and change behaviours.

Organised criminals are involved in many strands of criminality. The people that steal agricultural plant, may also be involved in organising cruel sports for example.

It can be a complicated picture. Piecing the jigsaw of intelligence together takes time, but if we want to bring offenders to justice, we need to have as rich an intelligence picture as possible, so we can target them on multiple fronts.

If you have information that will help us target criminals, we want to hear from you.

I recognise that not all issues experienced by rural communities involve deliberate criminality.

Some issues require educating the public to improve the harmony between those that work in the countryside and those that access it for leisure purposes.

My team will work with bodies such as the NFU to share messaging about issues like livestock worrying, which can cost farmers throughout Sussex many thousands of pounds.  

It’s a great pleasure to join this team and I look forward to sharing our progress with you.

Steyning rave

Locals in Steyning had to endure a large illegal rave recently which was highlighted in the media.

Despite the already advertised issues of the rave including drink and drug driving, public order and other associated offences, such an event on pristine National Park land has likely ruined the ecosystems and history for generations to come.

Local farmers’ reported the distress that has been caused to their livestock in the vicinity with one heifer reportedly giving birth early. There has also been footage widely shared on social media of scared calves within the rave site having lost their mother.

Pristine wildlife corridors and verges have been trampled and destroyed. The grassland found in the Downs is one of the country’s rarest habitats with many farmers being paid by DEFRA to maintain the wildlife corridors. The destruction of these will likely result in the loss of income for an already poorly paid profession.

Heritage has also suffered with the location of the rave being a scheduled ancient monument due to its bronze and prehistoric burial mounds.

The impact on our countryside and our heritage may be huge. 

The Rural Crime Team are heavily involved in the investigation of these offences and, in conjunction with the local community, the South Downs National Park Authority, Heritage England and Natural England we will seek to prosecute everyone who we can identify as having directly impacted the environment and heritage on the site.

This should also serve as a warning to others considering participating in raves or similar large trespass events in the future.

South of England Show

It was a real privilege to attend the South of England Show, one of the nation’s premier agricultural shows to manage a stall and interact with not only the farming and countryside communities but also the general public. 

The Rural Crime Team (RCT) and Mid Sussex Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) shared the stand and provided advice, swapped contact details and engaged with the wider community.

Targeting illegal waste carriers and commercial vehicles

We have carried out three days of action across the county in June targeting commercial vehicles and waste carriers.

Working alongside local Neighbourhood Policing Teams, Roads Policing and the Commercial Vehicles Unit as well as local authorities and Trading Standards, we set up stop-check sites in Heathfield, Hastings and Brighton.

Between these days the multi-agency approach resulted in:

  • Five fixed penalty notices being issued for waste offences.
  • Three fixed penalty notices being issued for traffic offences.
  • One arrest for a drug-driver.

We are continuing to put considerable effort into highlighting, educating and prosecuting those that commit waste offences alongside our partners.

Working with the water bailiffs

15 June saw the end of the course fishing closed season. The closed season is a ban on almost all fishing in rivers and streams to allow fish stock to replenish.

Around this time each year we see an increase of illegal fishing on our rivers, whether it be through people fishing before the closed season is over or people beginning to fish without having obtained a rod licence from the Environment Agency.

The fees from rod licences help pay for vital projects supporting anglers and fisheries across England, such as stock surveys, improving waterways and replenishing stocks.

An annual rod licence costs as little £30 but the fine you may receive if caught without one is up to £2,500, so it really is worth the investment!

During June we conducted joint patrols with the Environment Agency in West and East Sussex.

Throughout these patrols, seven people received fixed penalty notices for fishing offences. The most common being fishing without a rod licence.

Illegal fishing also goes hand-in-hand with other illegal activities such as recreational drug use and drink-driving. 

Our message is clear - take care of our waterways and wildlife or risk a large fine and possible prosecution.

Stolen property recovered in Horsham

The Rural Crime Team are always on the lookout for stolen plant, machinery and equipment. Too often these expensive items are stolen, resulting in hard working people being unable to earn a living.

We often find there’s a cross over between those stealing from our rural communities and those steal from building sites.

You can rest assured that if we see a piece of plant being moved at strange times, or if we have a tracker activation, we will act and investigate it.

Recently, an incident where a tracking firm pinpointed the location of a stolen mini-digger near Horsham, the team were able to recover it.

In the process of recovering the digger, a number of other stolen items on the site raised suspicion and were seized, including a twin axle trailer, some digger buckets and specialist tools.

Second poacher in Rye pleads guilty

In our last update, we reported on a court case where a poacher was sentenced to pay £199 in fines and costs after being caught poaching on land near Rye last August.

The Rural Crime Team became involved when a farmer disrupted two males trespassing on his farm during the daytime with ferrets in an attempt to capture and kill wild rabbits without the farmer’s permission,

There was a second male involved in that incident whom police identified but he failed to attend court at the original hearing. At the second trial he has now plead guilty.

The second male was also sentenced to pay £199 in fines and costs

Find out more about wildlife crime.

 

Prolific thief in West Sussex arrested

A rural thief has been arrested following her identified involvement of seven counts of theft and burglaries from farms in West Sussex.

The items stolen included scrap metal and car batteries had been sold to a local scrap metal dealer who assisted us in identifying the suspect.

The female received over £2000 in payment for the stolen items that she sold on.

The woman has been interviewed and bailed pending a charging decision from the CPS.

We encourage anyone with portable items prone to be stolen like batteries and chainsaws to consider property marking them and recording serial numbers down so that we can identify them in future if stolen.

We always seek to prosecute suspects and appreciate the help that the local rural communities provide in bringing cases like this to the courts.

 

Engage with us

Follow the Rural Crime Team on Twitter @SussexRuralCops

You can report rural crime online.

You can also anonymously report rural crime online using The National Farmers' Union's Rural Crime Reporting Line or calling 0800 783 0137. This lets you give information about crime relating to:

  • large scale industrial fly-tipping
  • hare coursing
  • machinery theft
  • livestock theft

Countrywatch

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