Seasonal overview and update from Inspector Oliver Fisher
I have previously spoken of the challenge fighting rural crime presents. Despite having one of the biggest Rural Crime Teams in the country, the fact is that the odds of us being in the right place at the right time to catch criminals are slim.
The same could be said for all our partners, be it Environment Agency tackling illegal waste disposal, the Angling Trust working to keep fishing in our waterways sustainable, or Historic England striving to protect our heritage from being plundered. But by pooling our resources, sharing information and intelligence to tackle issues together, the pendulum swings in our favour.
That’s why this week we launched the Sussex Rural Partnership Network. It’s why we launched Heritage Watch the month before. It’s why I meet the Rural Crime Team Inspectors from across the South East every fortnight. By building a willing coalition, we can identify shared aims and targets and put downward pressure on criminality.
Some of the issues our partners have shared with us centre around illegal dumping of waste. I would ask rural residents to be mindful of two crime trends. Firstly, the illegal disposal of tyres. The Environment Agency advise us that some land is being commandeered by gangs to dumps tens of thousands of tyres. If you see large deposits of tyres being dumped on land, please inform the Environment Agency.
Secondly, there has been some recent instances of areas of hard standing, be it industrial units, or commercial forecourts being used to dump waste over a weekend. Criminal gangs break in and then advertise the space as a “no questions asked” refuse dump. Users are charged a small fee to dump waste they would ordinarily be charged significant sums to dispose of.
Consequently, over the space of a weekend, a plot of land can be filled with toxic chemicals and substances like asbestos. The first the owner of the land knows of it is on Monday morning, when go to access their land and find it full of rubbish. A recent incident cost a council over £400k to clear up. If you see suspicious amounts of waste dumping occurring on a site that is not normally used in that way, please report it to us.
Lastly, you might have heard the twang of spring springing in recent months. With spring comes lambs and the ongoing issue of dogs worrying sheep. The team regularly investigate dog attacks on sheep. A resident in East Sussex was recently taken to court by the team, for just such an incident. Even a well-behaved dog can respond unpredictably around livestock. Do the responsible thing and put your dog on a lead when walking across fields.
I wish you a happy Easter.
Sussex Rural Partnership Network launches
A new partnership to tackle rural issues has been launched in Sussex.
The Sussex Rural Partnership Network (SRPN) has been created to provide a forum for those involved in the managing, farming and preservation of land in Sussex to understand issues, share solutions and develop best practice.
The network was launched at its first meeting at Barcombe Village Hall on Wednesday (13 April) which was attended by a range of organisations and individuals including farmers and estate managers, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Environment Agency, the National Trust, Ashdown Forest Centre, Sussex Police’s Chief Constable Jo Shiner, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, and the Sussex Police Rural Crime Team.
The event saw discussions on a range of issues facing land managers such as soaring commodity prices seeing an increase in diesel theft. Moving forward, attendees committed to forming of working groups with Sussex Police to find ways to reduce poaching, hare coursing, sheep worrying and fly tipping.
Watch this space for news and updates from this new forum.
Following the launch of Sussex Heritage Watch with Historic England, our monthly update will now include information about heritage assets and cultural property. Heritage crime fortunately remains low across the county, however, let’s not only enjoy our heritage but look out for it too.
Reports from North of England are highlighting a rising number of thefts relating to the theft of York Stone paving slabs from churchyards - keep an eye out for any suspicious activity around churches and war memorials. If you are a member of the church community, please remember to take a look at Historic England’s latest guidance for advice.
Also, keep an eye out for metals associated with historic buildings, such as lead, copper, bronze and zinc. Although there have been no thefts of this nature here for some time, be aware and call us at the time on 999 if you think someone is removing anything like this.
During spring, we see an increase in footfall in our rural locations. There are many protected archaeological sites and buildings in our countryside and in many cases, they are afforded the highest level of protection and are designated as ‘Scheduled Monuments.’
The lumps and bumps in our countryside could well be places of burial, hillforts, flint mines or settlement, all of which require protection.
It is a criminal offence to undertake unauthorised works or cause damage to a scheduled monument. Many of these fragile sites are in in isolated and tranquil settings and are uniquely vulnerable to harm. Examples of scheduled monuments include: Cissbury Ring, Chanctonbury Ring and Pevensey Castle.
Historic England have produced an online guide that shows the location of all the protected archaeological sites and buildings in East and West Sussex here here.
Damage to protected archaeological sites is often irreversible, which we will never get back. If you believe that a scheduled monument is being damaged or is subject to anti-social behaviour, report it to us.
Ollie the cocker spaniel is reunited with his owners
Seventeen-month-old Ollie was stolen from Broad Oak Kennels in Udimore Road, Rye, in the early hours of Thursday, March 31, sparking a police investigation and huge ‘doghunt’ across social media.
An extensive search was carried out, including the proactive arrest of a suspect by neighbourhood response officers in Hastings who was later released with no further action.
But at around 7am on Thursday (April 7), the owner of a house in Brands Hatch, Kent, heard a scratching and whining at their back door – coming from a small, tan-coloured cocker spaniel.
The quick-thinking rescuer contacted Battersea Dogs Home, who identified Ollie from the numerous online appeals. They got in touch with the owners, who contacted us, and our officers were up there in a flash.
Waste crime and metal theft operation in Peacehaven
On Wednesday 7 April, officers from the Rural Crime Team, Commercial Vehicle Unit, supported by Lewes and Eastbourne’s Neighbourhood First Team, held a waste crime and metal theft operation on the A259 in Peacehaven.
More than fifty vans and trucks were stopped during the morning, resulting in:
Three prohibition notices due to vehicle defects
10 traffic offence reports
Two vehicles found with no insurance
One disqualified driver
Two with no waste carrier licences.
The disqualified driver was fired by his employer, having lied to them about his ability to drive.
We continue to organise regular joint operations of this type across Sussex, disrupting criminality such as illegal waste handling and fly tipping, as well as making our roads safer (the condition of some vehicles were shocking).
We know and target where many of our rogue operators work, but if you suspect a location has criminality of waste crime and metal theft, let us and your local council know.
Three youths charged with killing geese
Following an investigation into three youths shooting and killing Geese in Adversane, West Sussex, three youths were initially charged to court.
Following the directions of the courts they have now completed a three-month course with the Youth Justice Service which aimed around wildlife and the countryside.
This was part of a joint effort between the Local Response teams, Neighbourhood Policing Team and the Rural Crime Team.
Educating young offenders on wildlife crime
On 5 March, we received a report of two young people aged nine and 13 who were firing stones at ducks. Unfortunately, one of those ducks was killed as a result.
We interviewed the 13-year-old and the parent of the nine-year-old as he was below the age of criminal responsibility and put in appropriate safeguarding measures for both youths.
The 13 year old admitted the offence in interview and has been referred to the youth offending team – the hope being after a panel has assessed it he will receive a three month educational course on wildlife and offensive weapons in line with a Level 2 Community Resolution.
The parent of the nine-year-old was given strong advice around parental responsibility.
Training event on angling
On 10 March 2022, the team attended a training event at the Brick Farm Lakes fishery in Herstmonceux, where we received valuable inputs from the Angling Trust, covering the economy of Angling and basic Angling law, and about the work of the ‘Building Bridges’ project who support angling clubs and fisheries who are funded by fishing licence income.
The project has provided multi-lingual signage and leaflets relating to Angling rules. We also had an input from the Environment Agency Fisheries enforcement officers and were shown examples of the various net lines and traps that poachers use. Officers were also learnt about fly fishing by Brick farm lakes staff.
Conviction for possession of a weapon
Back in July 2020, Rural Crime Team officers stopped a vehicle acting suspiciously in a country lane near Wadhurst. The driver Lee Brumby and the passenger were searched.
The passenger was found to be in possession of cannabis, for which he completed a cannabis awareness course as part of his community resolution.
A knife with a locking blade was found in the driver’s door pocket. Lee Brumby was subsequently charged to court but did not attend the original hearing, deciding rather to flee to Devon. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the courts and he was arrested on Christmas Day 2021 in Torquay.
On attending Lewes Crown Court, Lee Brumby was found guilty for possession of a bladed article in a public place. He was given a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £150 costs and a victim surcharge of £95.
Trespassers at Hersmonceux Castle
On Sunday 10 April, PCSO Steve Skerman responded to a report of trespassers at Herstmonceux Castle attempting to access an observatory dome. The location had been subject to previous issues with ‘urban explorers’ and buildings being damaged while trying to gain entry.
Three men from Haslemere were found on castle grounds and, whilst no tools were located or new damage seen, their details were taken and then sent on their way with strong words of advice.
With so many historical building and fascinating places in Sussex, some of which seemingly abandoned or derelict, the temptation can be to try and gain access and explore. However, permission should always be sought from the owner and damage should never be caused. You could be affecting a historical and culturally significant property, as well as placing yourself at risk of harm.