Officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Rural Operational Support Team (ROST) have taken part in a week of action to combat rural and wildlife crime.
To mark Rural Crime Week, the team were out and about conducting proactive visits and patrols, as well as taking part in partnership operations to target cross border criminality.
Hertfordshire is approximately 70 per cent rural and is spread over a 634 square mile radius. This is a significant proportion of the county and highlights the importance of the work rural officers do on a daily basis, to tackle issues such as theft of farm equipment and machinery, fly tipping, heritage crime, sheep worrying and hare coursing.
On Monday, September 18, officers joined policing colleagues from Essex and Cambridgeshire, as well as a host of partner agencies, for an operation to target criminals using the road network.
Drivers were stopped and spoken to, while vehicles and licenses were checked. Various people were dealt with for offences including driving with no insurance, MOT or tax, as well as waste carrying offences.
September 19 and 20 saw the team take part in Op Enact, a national operation around the trade of reptiles. They visited a number of sellers and breeders across the county, to check the correct licenses were in place.
Hare coursing was the focus for Thursday, September 21, with officers conducting patrols along the A505 and A10 corridor under Operation Galileo.
The initiative was first launched in 2018 by Lincolnshire Police in a bid to crack down on hare coursing. Its success has led to a national alliance of forces who work together, share information and mount cross border operations, investigations and prosecutions. Currently, more than 30 forces are signed up, with a seven-force regional alliance in place in the South East, including Hertfordshire.
Friday, September 22, was business as usual for the team, conducting patrols and engaging with the rural community.
Acting Sergeant Tim Armstrong, from the ROST, said: “Tackling rural and wildlife crime is a focus for the ROST all year round. However, initiatives like Rural Crime Week help to raise further awareness of the issues faced by rural communities and showcase the work that is being done by police and partner agencies to help tackle it.
“We will continue to work alongside our local policing colleagues and do everything in our power to keep our rural communities safe.”
National Farmers’ Union regional policy manager for the East Charles Hesketh said: “Rural crime remains a huge issue for farmers across Hertfordshire despite strong work from the police to deter and prosecute thieves.
“The NFU has had real success in strengthening legislation, but more work is needed to deter offenders and to help officers with intelligence gathering – so reporting incidents and suspicious behaviour remains key.
“Farmers, the police and policymakers must continue to work together on a local and national level to build a structure that will prevent rural crime, underpinned by solid legislation.
“We continue to see machinery, vehicle, GPS unit, fuel and livestock thefts but it is also important to remember that the nature of rural crime is changing, especially as more criminals have access to new technologies.”