Seasonal overview and update from Inspector Oliver Fisher
For many families, financial instability is a growing concern and rural families can face more than their share of the challenges. Commodity prices such as fuel and fertiliser are surging, putting additional pressure on farms and agricultural workers throughout Sussex. Where there are high prices, there is a criminal opportunity. As we all face pressure to cut costs, we can inadvertently fuel the market for stolen goods or criminal services.
You have told us that fly tipping of hazardous and household waste can cost farmers huge amounts of money to remove, so recently the team were busy on the A22 near Uckfield, alongside colleagues in the Commercial Vehicle Unit and the local authority, targeting vehicles that may be carrying waste. We know that stolen machinery has a significant impact on farming, the supply chain and the cost of food on our plates. That’s why Thames Valley Police and Sussex spent time supporting each other with operations to seek to identify those responsible for machinery theft.
However, we still need your help. Every community has that person always selling things at knock down prices or disposing of waste so cheaply people ask, “I don’t know how he’s making money at that price” – it’s because the true cost is being felt by us all, at a time we can ill afford it. You can report such people to us or Crimestoppers, and we will gladly introduce ourselves to them.
Regional Day of Action
On Wednesday 11 May 2022 officers from the team supported a regional day of action in Thames Valley as part of a week of regional working. Multiple police units and external agencies attended the day, including DVSA, NAVCIS, RPU, CVU and officers from Hampshire, TVP and Sussex Rural Crime. The aim was to stop and inspect large vehicles, from freight lorries, HGV/plant and agricultural vehicles to tipper and waste carriers.
Alongside forming great working relationships, the day was full of learning, with each department demonstrating their unique skills and knowledge of niche legislation to effectively tackle each roadside stop, without missing any opportunities to disrupt criminals using the road networks across the South East.
Further regional days of action are in place to be held across all South East forces to continue this partner working and experience gain for each force.
The Rural Crime Team have recently been supporting Sussex RPU with Operation Downsway, providing a high visibility presence across the road network to target irresponsible road users. Several drivers were dealt with for offences such as using a mobile phone whilst driving, dangerous driving and careless driving, and vehicle defects. Multiple stops were conducted, and vehicles checked for waste crime offences, burglary, poaching and drug offences.
Intelligence indicates that stolen fish are being sold to restaurants, often outside of rules governing food hygiene. This has clear risks for public health. The Rural Crime Team conducted foot patrols with the Angling Trust and the Voluntary bailiff service along the Rother and Arun.
Following a series of rural crimes, Sussex Rural Crime Team managed to identify a vehicle of interest which had been professionally cloned with the registration and VIN number of an innocent member of the public. Working with Hampshire colleagues, the vehicle was found and seized in Hampshire. Following a thorough examination, the vehicle was found to be stolen from London in February. Enquires are still ongoing.
Day of Action at Newhaven Port
On Thursday 12 May, the Rural Crime Team were joined by colleagues from Lewes Neighbourhood Policing Team, Thames Valley Police, the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) and Specialist Enforcement Unit for a day of action at Newhaven Port. Working alongside UK Border Force, officers the team spent the day at the port checking outgoing freight vehicles, as well as caravans and motorhomes.
A significant percentage of stolen agricultural vehicles, machinery and commercial plant is exported from the UK, often within 24hrs of the theft. As East Sussex’s only deep-water port with daily ferries operating to Dieppe, conducting regular checks to see what is moving through the port will help us disrupt the criminal’s supply chain. Our day at the port enabled us to share knowledge and experience with our partners relating to rural crime, whilst developing intelligence about the types of vehicles travelling from Sussex.
As a result of the operation, several vehicles were found to have no insurance and a man was arrested for possession of controlled drugs. Using the skills and technology from NaVCIS, we were also able to confirm the origins of a stolen caravan.
On Sunday 15 May, Rural Crime Team officers patrolled Hastings and Rother Districts with NPT colleagues, looking for rural thieves. Joint patrols play an important part in disrupting and catching criminals stealing from farms in Sussex. Developing and sharing intelligence on local and ‘out of force’ criminals enhance these patrols and our prospects of catching them. This particular patrol goes to show how effective this approach can be. The keen eyes of officers patrolling in Brede, near Rye, resulted in the arrest of a male for going equipped to steal. The investigation, supported by CID and NPT, is ongoing.
Whilst we currently cannot provide further details about this specific arrest, we can say with a degree of confidence that it most likely prevented an overnight break and theft in a rural area.
Dead birds across East Sussex
The team have received a number of reports across East Sussex recently relating to dead birds and animals. Several gulls have been found deceased with apparently no injury. In one case we were able to identify an injury cause by an air rifle pellet; this was only found upon closer inspection of the bird.
Due to the individual circumstances and locations, we can confidently say that the reports are unrelated. If you witness someone injuring or killing wildlife, please report it.
If you find a deceased bird or wild creature then you are advised not to handle it unless absolutely necessary and, in all cases, you should wear protective gloves; you may place yourself at risk of catching or transmitting diseases. If you suspect an animal has been poisoned, then extra care should be taken. If you see anything suspicious that could potentially be the cause of death, then it is important you report this so it can be safely removed and inspected. The Wildlife Trusts provide some useful advice about what to do and who to contact if you find injured or deceased wildlife:
Sgt Jon Attfield took part in the second East Sussex Waste Crime Practitioners Group meeting this month. Recently re-established, thanks to colleagues at Wealden District Council, the meeting brings together partners from neighbouring local authorities, East Sussex County Council and the Environment Agency, to discuss current issues and arrange operations to target fly tipping.
Illegal waste handling companies play a significant part in the problem of fly tipping and other environmental crimes. Conducting regular operations across Sussex, as well as joint patrols stopping and checking that carriers have the appropriate licensing and paperwork, has a positive effect on reducing fly tipping.
Temporary Superintendent Steve Biglands and Inspector Oli Fisher from the Sussex Police Rural Crime Team gave an input on the Spring Magistrates Association Training Day, hosted in Eastbourne and shared across the UK live time by TEAMS to other Magistrates. This was an important opportunity to explain to Magistrates the impacts of rural criminality, the remit of the Rural Crime Team and the policing response to incidents and crimes. Hot topics included livestock worrying, fly tipping and theft of farming equipment.
Steve and Oli were joined on the stage by Mark Chandler, the former chairperson of West Sussex NFU, and Sam Durham from the national NFU.
The National Gamekeepers Association explained how management plans are operated for all game, the adverse impacts of poaching on economics, and the harm to individuals that sits alongside such crimes when it is accompanied by intimidation. Mr Matthew Knight, a practicing solicitor, gave an input on gun law and firearms licensing.
All presenters participated in an open forum session with questions coming from across the UK as well as from within the room. A similar event is to be planned for later in the year and the Rural Crime Team have been invited to give a further input at that time.
Sussex Heritage Watch
Heritage crime continues to remain low across the county, however, let’s not become complacent.
Since our last report we have recorded over a dozen Heritage Crimes. Sadly, two thirds of those are attributable to criminal damage and most likely as a result of anti-social behaviour. When we look deeper into these reports the victims are both churches and WWII military assets.
Unfortunately, illicit metal detecting has again returned to our county, with two sites showing all the hallmarks of this activity. Our partners at The South Downs National Park have provided some excellent advice and guidance around metal detecting; please do take a look here: https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/culture-heritage/metal-detecting-faqs/
We continue to work alongside our partners to prevent and investigate Heritage Crime. We have been working closely with the Sussex County Archaeologist and team, historians, church representatives, Historic England, SDNPA, The National Trust and many more to address the reports.
As summer fast approaches, we will undoubtedly see an increase in footfall in our rural locations. If you suspect any of our heritage is being damaged or is subject to anti-social behaviour, report it to us.