Police wildlife crime officers and social media

A common rural crime: the dumping of tyres in the countryside.

A common rural crime: the dumping of tyres in the countryside.

How many police officers, other than wildlife crime officers, would know how to investigate the introduction of non-native species, in this case American signal crayfish?

How many police officers, other than wildlife crime officers, would know how to investigate the introduction of non-native species, in this case American signal crayfish?

How many police officers, other than wildlife crime officers, would know how to investigate offences relating to a basking shark?

How many police officers, other than wildlife crime officers, would know how to investigate offences relating to a basking shark?

One or two police wildlife crime officers now use social media to tremendous effect. Very much in the forefront is Sergeant Rob Taylor of North Wales Police (@NWPRuralCrime), who leads a team of four officers specialising in dealing with rural crime. Those living in many rural areas often feel that they are being left out so far as policing is concerned. They themselves need little policing, but they are constantly pestered by incoming criminals stealing livestock and machinery, dumping loads of waste, allowing uncontrolled dogs to kill sheep (and sometimes even attacking cattle or horses) and of course a whole range of crimes committed against wildlife.

Rob and his team not only deal effectively with these issues but enlist valuable help from the public by the use of social media. Bringing the public on board in this manner is a superb way of ensuring that as many folks as possible are aware of wildlife and other rural crime. It also brings reassurance that the police are actually doing something about rural crime and not simply devoting all their resources to centres of population.

Most wildlife and rural crimes are more successfully investigated when the officer has specialist experience. A good proportion of wildlife crime officers are practised in handling livestock, and can tell a blackfaced ewe from a Swaledale, a limousin bullock from a simmental or a peregrine from a sparrowhawk. An experienced officer exudes confidence and is more likely to bring an investigation to a satisfactory conclusion (even though many wildlife crimes are some of the most difficult to detect.)

I am beginning to get the hang of blogging and the use of Twitter but beyond that I am not great with technology. I just wish I had this experience when I was wildlife and environmental crime officer with Tayside Police as I’m sure it would have made a big difference. There are pitfalls of course, and it is easy to let slip information that may subsequently jeopardise a case. How often do people complain, for instance, in a raptor poisoning case that the police didn’t name the pesticide involved? Of course they didn’t as this specialist knowledge may be crucial if and when they interview a suspect. Rob is clearly well aware of how far he can go and his Twitter entries should be an example to all other wildlife crime officers. Some wildlife crime officers in England are now coming to the fore with social media and I look forward to seeing some progress in Scotland. It definitely works!

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