Sussex Police rural crime team sets out first-year results

A year into the job and Sussex Police’s rural crime team has been praised for some encouraging results in the force’s fight against crime in the countryside.

The dedicated team was created in June 2020 to tackle farming, equine and wildlife crimes that affect isolated communities.

See also: Rural crime: The mental and financial toll on farmers

Notable results from the first year include a crackdown on poaching and livestock worrying, as well as efforts to disrupt dog theft, which the government has also taken action on following a reported rise in pet theft since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts praised the positive impact the rural crime team is having in Sussex.

“Too often we hear about how rural crime is not given the priority it deserves by police forces,” Mr Roberts said. “Rural crime is one of the things that keep many of us awake at night, given how it impacts on us as individuals and businesses.

“In a number of parts of the country we have seen the establishment of rural crime teams and it is good to see the results from Sussex.

“I would urge other police forces to learn from those who have worked with rural communities and established these types of approach to focus on crimes which target farming and rural areas.”

Busy 12 months

Chief constable Jo Shiner said it had been a busy 12 months for the Sussex Police team, who had received positive feedback from rural communities.

“We’ve been actively encouraging members of the community to report crime and suspicious behaviour, because with this insight, we are able to deploy the team to where they are most needed in order to protect the most vulnerable,” she said.

Sussex Police rural crime results

Successful convictions include:

  • Two men from London arrested for poaching in the Balcombe area who had an air rifle with a scope, hunting knives, catapults and ball bearings, along with dead pheasants and pigeons. Following an investigation by the team, in April both men were found guilty in court. They were both handed 16-week suspended prison sentences for carrying knives in public along with 150 hours unpaid work and 12-month community orders.
  • A man who pleaded guilty to a poaching offence in Rye and was ordered to pay £199 in fines and costs.
  • An investigation into a dog attack that left two pregnant ewes dead resulted in £1,080 compensation to the farmer after the team secured a community resolution order against the dog owner, which required them to compensate the farmer.

Other work:

  • The launch of Op Collar, the force’s response to prevent dog thefts. This included the seizure of dogs believed stolen or used for unscrupulous breeding. One of these dogs has already been reunited with her rightful owner, having been stolen more than six months ago
  • Work with agencies and lost dog charities to identify the owners of the dogs.
  • Work with Brighton and Hove City Council and other groups to tackle illegal waste carried in Brighton, and with the NFU and CLA to highlight the dangers of livestock worrying.
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