Here, Giles Evans, our North East and Yorkshire Regional Enforcement Manager, gives us a rundown of the important work he and our Enforcement Team are doing in cooperation with the police, the environment agency and others. This blog has a northern focus but a national significance!
Well, it has been a while since my last BLOG, still busy and lots of good things going on in the North East and Yorkshire with great support from the Environment Agency, police forces and the wonderful Voluntary Bailiff Service Volunteers.
One issue that I wish to talk about here, is Rural crime. We highlight that illegal angling and fish theft (Poaching), is linked to other crimes and one of these is Rural crime. In my time as a Detective in Northumberland, a rural area, I struggled on occasions to understand why resources were not allocated to investigate these matters. I believe the figure nationally, obtained from the internet, shows the cost to the country of rural crime, in 2016 was £42.5 million. The North East was the largest contributor to this figure, of £7.9 million and Lincolnshire was the most targeted area.
It is therefore great to see police forces, now realising the cost and the effect this has on a community. A crime within a city centre affects maybe a few, whilst in the rural areas, crime affects that community as well as other neighbouring communities. It raises fear amongst the residents and no one should live in fear of crime.
I can recall some years ago, when a detective, dealing with organised gangs who would, in layman’s terms, pillage the Northumberland countryside. One of the excuses they would use would be: ‘They were simply out walking the dogs.’, or, ‘They had a telescopic fishing rod in the boot of the car, as they were out for a bit of fishing’. All a guise to appease those that may see or report them and of course an excuse used so that nothing would happen to them as poaching was not seen as a linked crime to the main offences of rural crime. What does this tell me? This endorses the link we make with illegal fishing and fish theft and other poaching and wildlife crime matters such as hare or deer coursing and rural crime. This is now understood and forces are very keen to take action against those who poach and commit wildlife crime, thus, severing the link that these criminals may go onto commit rural crime. This is a positive step for all!
There is a saying that there is no “I” in TEAM – This is true as:
T-Together E– Everyone A– Achieves M– More – TEAM
So how does my work and that of my colleagues fit into this? And, how are we working with police forces?
As you may know, our role is to highlight matters to the police and we also manage a Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS). All volunteers have a raised awareness of Rural and Wildlife crime, from a presentation to them from the National Wildlife Crime Unit on their induction day. Myself and some of the North East and Yorkshire VBS volunteers have been involved in many operations, including a large multi force, multi-agency one, called Checkpoint. This sees all the Northern forces as well as other enforcement agencies, such as the EA, combine to target rural and wildlife crime. We are the eyes and ears for them, as well as volunteers from other agencies and watch schemes and this has seen some excellent results, including some caught by the EA illegally fishing. The VBS is a vital cog in the wheel of this operation and the work that all volunteers do within the VBS is greatly appreciated by all
Our work, which is funded and supported by the EA, has ensured matters that were, previously, not reported, now are. Now, Police forces have an interest in Illegal fishing and fish theft, as they can see the link between this crime and Rural crime. They carry out patrols, having learnt from the EA and ourselves. This can only be good for us all and now anglers can see the value of reporting matters. It would be foolish to say that everything was rosy, there is still a long way to go, but things are changing. There is a developing mind set. The message to report is growing in momentum and Anglers have a voice. Through the VBS, Anglers are increasingly feeling empowered to act by reporting matters. They are the eyes and ears, there to support the EA, putting all their patrols or fishing days into our secure website to be shared, or reporting matters to a high evidential standard. Remember that without this input and reports by VBS or anglers, the EA and the Police will be blind to any problems. Being intelligence led, they can now target the right areas. ‘Stop moaning and start phoning’ is the phrase being used and I like it. There is a saying, that it’s 10% the situation you are in and 90% how you deal with it. If your 10% sees something that doesn’t look right and needs reporting, use the 90% to do this! Then, your job is done!
Recently, due to our aims, I was invited, by Northumbria Police, to be part of a multi-agency steering group that will specifically look at rural and wildlife crime matters. It was great to meet partners and agencies that all had the same aim, that of helping to stop rural and wildlife crime. This was true of another meeting with North Yorkshire Police, who now lead nationally on rural and wildlife matters, and who have now put a dedicated Rural crime task force into post. They wished to hear from the agencies about the priorities they feel should be carried forward nationally. Poaching and fish theft will definitely form part of this. We have seen a great deal of interest from the Police about illegal fishing and fish theft. Operations such as Traverse and Leviathan have been agreed nationally by various police forces and days of action have followed.
Operation Clampdown which targets illegal close season fishing is actively promoted and recently, on one of our co-ordinated patrols under the banner of this Operation with the Environment Agency, Police, and VBS, some anglers were fishing illegally and dealt with by the EA. One unsuspecting driver was seen by the police putting red diesel into his vehicle which is illegal and, as a result, he had his vehicle seized by the Police. He can expect possible further sanctions from other agencies. If you look at this you will see, multi-agency working is the way forward, sharing information and intelligence to support each other. Remember, ‘TEAM’. Together Everyone Achieves More
As for my angling, well, I am lucky to live in an area that allows for all forms of angling and I have been dipping my toes into Pike fishing. Fair to say, I am now hooked and am looking forward to many more trips and hopefully bigger fish!
I have also been very lucky to be part of some days when schoolchildren in Northumberland are introduced to angling. To see the faces on kids, when landing their first fish, was brilliant. It’s how we started and we were lucky to have James Stokoe, winner of BBC 2’s The Big Fish present and he also stated how great it was to see this.
During the summer months, I go boat fishing in the North Sea. I appreciate this is a freshwater BLOG, but the North East does give up some lovely fish as this 13lb Cod, caught by myself shows.
Many thanks for taking the time to read this, there is a lot of good work going on and you, the anglers, are playing your part, be it from the VBS, or, reporting matters, so let’s keep this momentum going. Remember, this is not about me or my colleagues, this is about angling, everyone working together, a TEAM, dealing with and acting on the situation you are in, to help support the EA and the Police
North East and Yorkshire REM