There are some crimes that only affect our rural communities and I have been very pleased that poaching is something that Wiltshire Police have been disrupting and dealing with robustly.
Operation Artemis was launched in 2017 following representations from farmers and their workers, gamekeepers and estate owners because poaching has long since stopped being the “one for the pot” image we may have.
Criminals and gangs involved in poaching are organised and can travel long distances to take part in illegal activity in our countryside. Illegal betting can see large amounts of money pass hands, which can be linked to other crimes such as burglary, drug dealing and fraud. In addition to livestock, game, deer and wildlife being killed and stolen, landowners, tenants and game keepers can be intimidated, threatened and attacked by poachers who often use weapons for their illegal poaching. Damage is caused to footpaths, bridleways, woodland, crops and to wildlife and their habitats by these criminals when they target our countryside. This impacts on livelihoods and creates fear in our rural communities.
I am very encouraged by Wiltshire Police working much more closely with those affected by poaching so that intelligence and information can be acted upon promptly and people can be reassured that action has been taken. I will however be following up on a recent increase in illegal activity in the Steeple Ashton area of Wiltshire to ensure that the police continue to have the cooperation and proactive assistance of local people. I will also be asking for an update on the impact of Operation Artemis, which has been running now for almost two years.
A quick reminder… when reporting incidents of poaching that have occurred, call 101 and quote 'Operation Artemis'. If you are aware of illegal activity taking place at the time, call 999 and provide as much location detail as possible.