Surrey Police’s rural crime team continues to tackle issues including illegal fishing and livestock worrying during our response to Covid-19.
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Officers are continuing to address rural crime issues across Surrey throughout our response to Covid-19.
The Rural Crime team across the county includes six PCSO’s, two constables and a sergeant, who have identified a number of issues that they have been addressing in recent weeks.
Illegal fishing has been identified across the county, and specifically in areas including Farncombe, the Guildford area, and the east of the county as an increasing issue. Dog walkers not keeping their pet on a lead and livestock worrying is another area of concern. Off-road biking has also been raised in the Tandridge area. In addition the team have been reminding landowners in rural locations about outbuilding security.
We are aware that there are some anglers out there who are fishing, sometimes illegally where they do not have a license to do so which can be prosecuted as theft, during the lockdown period. The Angling Trust is lobbying to have fishing included among the activities that may be permitted when Covid-19 restrictions start to be lifted, but for the time being it is not a reasonable excuse to be at the water's edge. The Angling Trust and Environment Agency’s current advice is to follow Government guidelines and that people shouldn’t be leaving their house to go fishing recreationally. DEFRA has made it clear that angling is not currently categorised as a permitted exercise and travelling to go fishing is not allowable.
'Livestock Worrying' is a criminal offence where a dog chases or attacks livestock in a way that causes harm. We ask dog owners of Surrey community to:
- Keep your dog on a lead near livestock and, if they get agitated, walk them away.
- Ensure your dog does not stray off the path or area where you have right of access.
- Ensure that your dog is under control and will come back to you on your command, if it doesn’t it shouldn’t be off the lead.
- If there is an encounter with your dog and livestock then try to contact the farmer first so they can get there as soon as possible, then make contact with the Police.
- Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to have your dog under full control at all times even when walking along a footpath next to their field.
Also, we encourage all land owners to:
- Have clear signs that are visible at entrance points, warning dog walkers about livestock in the field.
- Check your livestock regularly in case any have been attacked.
- Maintain fences, walls and hedges to make it more difficult for dogs to get into grazing fields.
- Ask your neighbours to alert you if they see attacks or loose dogs near your livestock.
Regardless of whether you have outbuildings next to your home or some distance away if you live in a rural location, it’s important to remember the following crime prevention advice to secure your property and machinery:
- Fit a good quality padlock, which has a hardened steel shackle (the part which opens and passes through the hasp) to all shed doors. The shorter the shackle the better because it prevents the jaws of bolt croppers being able to be placed around it.
- Use anti-tamper screws or smear hard setting glue on the screw-heads of the door hinges.
- Lock or permanently fix windows shut and cover them, perhaps with an old curtain, so no one can see what is kept inside.
- Install a shed alarm and place a sticker in the window or on the door to advertise the fact.
- Mark valuable property, including lawnmowers, power tool, bikes, and garden furniture by permanently etching on your postcode and house number.
- Invest in a secure storage toolbox.
- Chain up bicycles, lawnmowers and motorbikes and secure them to a fixed point in the shed.
- Always lock vehicles when left outside and keep the keys in your possession.
- Consider storing more expensive electrical goods indoors or in a more secure building such as a brick-built structure.
- Make sure that fences/gates to your property are secure and remember to put any property away at night or when you go out during the day.
- Darkness is the perfect cover for burglars and the effective and economic answer is to install outside lighting, which comes on only when people are present.
A recent example of an incident that the rural crime team has responded to is a report of three men trespassing on land off Bakeham Lane in Egham with an air rifle shortly before 8pm on Wednesday 22 April. A weapon was not recovered but the three men who were arrested on suspicion of trespassing have been released without charge. They remain under investigation, while enquiries continue.
Chief Inspector Michael Hodder said: “With people staying at home during the response to Covid-19 and social distancing in place, when they do go out for an essential reason such as shopping or exercise, members of the public may assume that rural crime issues may be reduced.
“However we have seen concerns raised about illegal fishing and people letting their dogs off a lead when walking their pet in rural locations. These are important issues and people need to take responsibility for their animal. Clearly fishing, and specifically illegal fishing, does not fall under an essential reason to leave home and the Rural Crime Team has been working hard to identify problem areas to tackle this to identify those responsible.
"Sheep worrying by dogs is an ongoing problem and with thousands of new lambs in particular across the county, I would urge dog walkers to keep their animals on a lead and under control at all times while around livestock. Your normally docile pet can turn bloodthirsty killer in a moment and a farmer can legally shoot a dog that is chasing livestock.
“I’d urge anyone living in a rural community to alert us to any suspicious activity or anyone disregarding the Countryside Code, such as not observing footpaths, walking across crops, leaving gates open or being abusive when challenged. We’re also keen to hear from you if you see people using bikes, scramblers, or quad bikes in an inappropriate way in rural locations, such as footpaths, which puts other people at risk. This will enable us to build a comprehensive picture of the challenges that our communities may be facing so that we can target our patrols. You can report these via the Surrey Police website. I’d also encourage people to use social media platforms such as Whatsapp to keep their neighbours updated if they see anything suspicious.
“The team are also carrying out patrols in rural areas to prevent people congregating at beauty spots and we will continue our policing approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging people to observe the Government guidance. Only as an absolute last resort will we enforce. We do not want to criminalise people unnecessarily, we appreciate the pressures that the public are facing, but we will use our powers if necessary.
"Rural PCSOs are also liaising with partners including the National Farmers' Union and the Country Land and Business Association to ensure that we work in partnership to address any issues raised to us."
Under government regulations, you should only leave the house for very limited purposes:
- Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
- One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
- Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home