OPCC blog: On patrol with the Rural Crime Team

To mark Rural Crime Week this week, OPCC communications and engagement officer Chris Latham spent an evening with the Gwent Police Rural Crime Team:

“Established in January this year, the Rural Crime Team is dedicated to tackling rural, heritage and wildlife crime. It works closely with local communities, farmers and partner organisations to tackle a wide range of crime in Gwent’s rural areas.

“I joined PC Daniel Counsell for an evening shift and our first stop was Machen Mountain in the Caerphilly borough to visit a fly-tipping hot spot.

“The site was strewn with waste and, within the mound of rubbish, there was a huge number of black bags filled with soil and broken ceramic pots. PC Counsell believed that they had come from cannabis factories and we saw many more of these bags as we drove around the mountain. It is just one way that serious and organised crime is affecting our rural areas.

“The Rural Crime Team is working with Caerphilly County Borough Council, Fly Tipping Action Wales, and local farmers to try and tackle the fly-tipping problem at this particular area with signage and regular patrols, but sites like these can be found across Gwent.

“As it was National Badger Day (Sunday 6 October), our next visit was to a series of badger sets where baiting has been reported. We found several sites where baiters had dug down into the set to allow their dogs to get at the badgers.

“Not only does this usually end in the death of the badger, but often results in serious injuries to the dog too. Fortunately, there appeared to be no signs of any new digging in the area.

“Badger baiting is an appalling crime that is incredibly difficult to police, but the team are working with local farmers, land owners and animal welfare organisations across Gwent to try and tackle it.

“Sadly, animal cruelty is common in Gwent’s rural areas and our next stop was to check on some of the local deer herds around Wentworth Forest. Deer in Gwent are regularly victims to poachers, fighting dogs, and people supplying the taxidermy trade. Thankfully, local people are keeping their eye out for the deer’s welfare and are feeding back anything of concern to the team.

“The final stop for the evening was Caerwent Parish Church in Monmouthshire. This was recently the victim of grave robbers looking for Roman artefacts. The cemetery is still in use, so this obviously caused a huge amount of upset in the local community. Following a meeting with the Rural Crime Team, the church has installed lighting, and police have stepped up patrols in the area.

“I was only with the team for a few hours of a long shift, but it was a fascinating insight into the officers’ work, and reassuring to see that the concerns of the rural community are being taken seriously. Rural crime may not have the same profile as other crime types but, to the communities it affects, it is no less important.”