Newsletter - Issue 35 - June 2023
Norfolk Constabulary's Operation Randall focusses on rural and wildlife crime and regularly contains information pertinent to anyone interested in garden wildlife and the countryside.Reproduced on this website with permission of Norfolk Constabulary.
tackling rural crime
Issue 35 June 2023
Welcome to another month’s newsletter - it’s certainly been a month to remember. I often feel very privileged to be in the role I am, tackling some of the more unusual crime types that we, as police, deal with. A very quick scan through indicates, as a team, we have dealt with; blue tits, buzzard, theft of sheep, livestock worrying, GPS thefts, access issues, illegal trail riding, bluebells, crimes at historic churches, illegal metal detecting, damage to cordons of nesting birds, great crested newts, seagulls, and so much more in such a short space of time. Police work is often seen as one of the most varied jobs and the world of rural crime takes it to a whole new level of variety.
Myself, PC Alex Lovelock and PC Chris Holmes got out in the sun one weekend this month, with our all-terrain vehicle, looking to tackle illegal and anti-social behaviour around motorbikes in Thetford Forest. Many people were pleased to see us as they enjoyed a walk or cycle. We also stopped and spoke to several motorbike riders to make them aware of what they can and can’t do, making sure their vehicles were also road legal. If you wish to use an off-road bike, please do so responsibly in areas it is allowed, otherwise you could find us seizing your bike at great cost to yourself.
As I write this, the weather has taken a slightly unseasonably cold turn again. Looking ahead we do hope the weather does improve slightly. This month, we have Open Farm Sunday on the 11th June. This is an initiative which has been around for several years now and many farms run free events for people to visit working farms. A quick search of ‘Open Farm Sunday’ will help you find events happening close to you. At the end of the month, on Wednesday 27th and Thursday 28th of June, we will be at the Royal Norfolk Show again. This is a fantastic event showcasing so many elements from agriculture, rural way of life and so much more. Do come and see us if you are in attendance, we will be in the emergency services village as always.
All-Terrain Vehicle policing motorbike use in Thetford forest.
Recent Sheep (Lamb) Thefts in the Region
If you see anything suspicious or you feel uncomfortable what you are seeing in a field at any time let us know immediately. Farmers generally will not be loading 1 or 2 sheep up, or into vehicles. They will generally load large parts of the flock into a fit for purpose trailer and generally in daytime hours (likely to be earlier in the coming months to avoid peak heat).
Unfortunately, we saw another theft from a farm in relation to GPS systems this month. This is very costly for those involved in so many ways. There are a couple of points which have come out of this which are key for others to consider. This farm had several machines which were not touched, all of those were covered by overt CCTV systems whereas sadly the tractors targeted were not covered by CCTV. Make it obvious that you have taken steps to protect your property such as signs saying, ‘CCTV in operation’. Do not hide your cameras.
We are starting to see farmers install aftermarket trackers which could prove beneficial moving forward – the only systems we have recovered in this country had this sort of technology fitted within. The other systems we have recovered have been abroad after they have left the country. The use of tag type tracking devices can be very affordable solution.
We continue to ask farmers overtly mark their systems using permanent marker, or engraver with postcode and surname. Consider painting the dome - a yellow dome on top really sticks out. Blend it in or paint it any colour making it less attractive to the resale market. We also continue to ask farmers to remove the kit where possible.
With summer finally around the corner, we have started to see a few lawnmower thefts, in particular (as is often the case) ride on lawnmowers. Please consider where you store these machines. Can they be put behind unmoveable equipment (cars/trailers with wheel clamps) so they cannot be removed. Please also mark them covertly and overtly with a postcode/surname so should we recover these items we know who they belong to. They also become less attractive in the illegal second-hand market.
New Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code
This past month has seen the launch of the new Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code which goes hand in hand with our OP Seabird national project to protect our coastal wildlife. This really useful webpage has collated a huge amount of information and links, in an easy to read format: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/marine-and-coastal-wildlife-code/marine-and-coastal-wildlife-code-advice-for-visitors
It includes tips on how you could disturb wildlife and general advice for acting responsibly around wildlife. It also covers use of jet skis, how to report wildlife crimes and dead/injured marine life and how to get further training if you are interested.
Sadly, over the bank holiday weekend, we were made aware of a few individuals who continue to cause issues particularly at Snettisham near Hunstanton. We are incredibly lucky to have a tiny little bird called Ringed Plover (amongst several others including the beautiful Oyster Catcher) who nest along our coastline. These birds are in significant decline and under real threat. They nest on the ground and their eggs look like small pebbles (to naturally prevent predation) which makes them incredibly vulnerable to humans and dogs destroying them. For this reason, the RSPB (and other organisations/estates) cordon off small areas to allow these birds to rear their young in a degree of safety.
Really disappointingly it was reported to us that someone has cut the ropes and pulled poles out around these nesting areas. This is not acceptable. Not only is it criminal behaviour, in regards to the damage, but the persons responsible also run the risk of committing wildlife offences of damaging and destroying wild birds nests. These cordons are in place to try to prevent people committing offences. They are in place for a short period of time and in the grand scheme of our coastline, cover a very small area. Please respect them. They will be obvious and are all signposted as to why they are in place.
Dogs should also be kept on leads and prevented from going into these areas for a couple months. You are responsible for your dogs’ action. If your dog destroys a nest, you are criminally responsible for that. Over the years I have heard the classic ‘my dog is really well behaved its fine he doesn’t need to be on a lead’. That may well be the case however if someone sees your dog off the lead, someone else will think its ok to do so and will result in dogs which aren’t so well behaved causing significant damage.
It should also be noted that several of these beaches involved in this project are actually privately owned and public are given permission to use them. We could find these permissions withdrawn in years to come as these estates have a legal duty to promote and protect wildlife. If they cannot do it with the compliance of the public we could see access withdrawn completely which would be huge shame and a situation nobody wants to see.
We will be increasing our patrols in these key areas for the next few months, and if anyone has any information in regard to those responsible for the damage please get in touch.
Beach nesting birds sign
Snettisham Beach sign
Dogs Worrying Livestock
Following on from this we have the inland issue of dogs worrying sheep. Sadly again a few individuals think its acceptable to allow their dog off in fields with sheep or close by.
This has led to some shocking scenes in the past few years with piles of dead sheep and seriously injured lambs, this is completely unacceptable. We will always take the strongest possible action in identifying those responsible.
It is as simple as if a field has sheep or cattle in it, keep your dog on a lead. Whilst your dog may not chase the sheep (it could quickly change!) their presence can cause significant distress and suffering to livestock.
Again, we could find ourselves in similar situations as above where parts of our countryside become closed to the public if people cannot keep dogs on leads. There are plenty of specially designed areas now to take your dog to allow them off the lead safely.
Again, your dog may be an old doddery gorgeous lab but if you let it off the lead, the next person with a young hyper spaniel comes along sees your dog off the lead and thinks it’s acceptable to let their dog off and that then continues. We all have a responsibility to do the right thing and encourage others to do so.
Cultural Heritage Crime Networking Event for Liaison Officers
Heritage Crime Update
Norfolk and Suffolk Heritage crime officers have been collaboratively working on a large case, involving four Norfolk males illegally metal detecting on the Roman scheduled site at Baylham in Suffolk. The weight of evidence gathered has led to all the males pleading guilty. This, along with a lot of behind the scenes forensic and phone work, has led to a vast amount of intelligence being gathered around the organised nature of this sort of crime commonly referred to as ‘nighthawking’. Two men, involved in another incident, were also charged for going equipped for illegally detecting In North Norfolk. If you have any information relating to individuals or places where nighthawking is occurring, please contact PC Holmes by emailing Christopher.email@example.com
PC Chris Holmes and Sgt Matt Paine also attended a Cultural Heritage Crime Networking Event last week with colleagues from across the county and other experts in heritage crime. This was an opportunity to share knowledge and experiences in investigating heritage crime.
We have seen a few church thefts over the past week, not just in rural settings but also in some built up areas. These thefts have included musical instruments to irreplaceable pieces of history. At the start of the month, we also had a theft of lead from a rural church in Hanworth.
These buildings are not only religious sanctuaries for some people, they are of huge importance to the local communities and need our support. If you see something suspicious, please get in contact with us immediately. In general people should not be climbing on roofs of church’s unless authorised work is being carried out. The below image has been produced by OPAL team to provide some advice to those responsible for looking after these buildings.
Wildlife Crime Update
As I touched on above, it has been an incredibly varied month. We have managed to finalise an investigation in relation to destruction/disturbance of a protected European species, namely Great Crested Newts. This work required a licence from Natural England which was in process however was not in place at the time of the work. This licence is now in place, restorative work has been carried out and a donation to a local wildlife charity has been paid as part of a community resolution. If you plan to carry out any work that requires or likely to require a licence, please make sure the licence is fully in place before work is carried out.
We have also had a number of reports of nesting birds being disturbed and destroyed. These can be incredibly frustrating crimes to deal with as we need to prove the nest is active. That said we have stepped into contacting a few builders/developers where it looks like work is going to be carried out damaging such nests these have including seagulls, house sparrows and blue tits over this month. All nests are protected whilst being built or active, they cannot be removed until the end of the season around the end of August.
Also, we had a slightly unusual call when a landowner was accused of damaging some bluebells whilst replacing an old worn-out track. Whilst bluebells are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, they’re an exception under the legislation and protected from being offered for sale and linked offences rather than like many of the other plants listed under the act from destruction.
We have also had one or two well-meaning calls reporting Larsen traps being set illegally. Upon checking these have been set correctly, they can often look slightly odd. A Larsen trap generally involves a live bait bird in one section which attracts other corvid species (i.e. magpie/crow). That bait bird must have food, water, perch and shelter at all times to meet its welfare needs. Corvid species do need controlling magpies can be real devils. They will pick the backs of sheep and even eyeballs out of lambs, they will also take eggs from other bird species. We would always rather check these traps are being used correctly if people have concerns.
Photo captured of Great Crested Newts by N. Rankin (used with permission)
What is happening in the countryside in June?
Livestock farms will be as busy as ever this month with several having the added pressures of agricultural shows including the Royal Norfolk Show. They will be spending days preening and washing the stock ahead of showing them in the ring over the two-day spectacle. These show prizes can carry significant importance as they can add value to the stock. If you get a chance to visit the livestock rings, spend some time watching these stockman showing their stock off. It takes months of training, cleaning and trimming to get them looking as good as they do and is a great opportunity to see the many different breeds and their unique features.
These agricultural shows are also a lifeline to rural communities. They bring large numbers of likeminded individuals together, who are often from isolated backgrounds, for a few days enjoying each other’s company, sharing ideas and stories. They have been a long-held tradition for hundreds of years.
Many of the sheep flocks in the fields will start to look a little more naked this month as shearing gets under way. Shearing is a costly business these days, the value of wool is very poor and it doesn’t even cover the cost of shearing. The shearing has to be done for welfare reasons once a year. It is no longer a profitable by-product these days. It used to be an incredibly profitable industry during the industrial revolution and before the importation of cotton, but those days are long behind us.
Some farmers are now in fact breeding sheep which naturally shed their wool, similar to moulting dogs and this is becoming a sought-after breed characteristic. This shows how agriculture can evolve in changing times.
Farms will also be dosing wormers and fly repellents to sheep and cattle to protect them from two of the biggest threats over summer. Whilst there are industry concerns around the use of wormers (in particular with some worms becoming resistant to the wormers used) so many now only do this when necessary, rather than routinely. The use of wormers is generally seen as necessary as we don’t have enough land to rotate around, to allow stock to be on constantly clean ground. These worms, like in humans and other animals, can cause serious illness and death if left untreated.
The fields are already starting to change colour, most of the oilseed rape has turned green now with the yellow flowers being replaced with the green seed pods which will eventually turn brown/black as they become ready for harvest. The fields of winter barley are now well in ear and starting to turn a wispy green as the ears swell and grow, this will shortly be followed by the winter wheat coming into ear ahead of harvest maybe towards the end of this month although more likely beginning of July.
The countryside remains in full song with so many of our native and visiting birds present, I saw my first swallows last week sitting on top of a telephone line chirping away in their very distinct way which to me is one of my favourite sights of summer. Many of our native species have already had their first clutch of chicks. The likes of tits, blackbirds and corvid species will now be looking to have a second clutch.
Our meadows, roadsides, and woodlands are literally bursting with life with flowers popping up everywhere and bees busy pollinating and collecting pollen. June can really be a great month to get out and enjoy our natural world before it gets a little too hot or dry with everything turning brown (if anything like last year!).
Thank you again for reading. No doubt this month will be a busy month with so many summer events planned. Please note there will not be a newsletter next month due to the Norfolk Show and also planned leave.
We will return at the end of July. That said the wider team will be available so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns.
PC Chris Shelley
Recent Press Releases
Appeal for witnesses following theft from vehicle - Banham
Police are appealing for any witnesses following a theft from a white Ford Mondeo in a car park at Banham Zoo on Saturday (27 May).
The incident happened when a taxi was broken into at the car park in Kenninghall Road. The window of the vehicle had been smashed, a money bag containing £200 to £300 stolen and an iphone between 11am and 11.45am.
If you witnessed the crime or anyone acting suspiciously please contact PC Tamsin Raines at Norfolk Police on 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting reference 36/37942/23.
Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Appeal for witnesses after child struck by car
Police are appealing for witnesses after a child was struck by a car in Aylsham.
The incident happened at around 4.20pm in Red Lion Street on Tuesday 9 May 2023 when a primary school-age child fell from his scooter into the road.
He was subsequently struck by a white car, believed to be a Vauxhall Viva, which did not stop.
The child suffered an ankle injury and bruising and was taken to hospital for treatment.
Any witnesses or anyone with information or dashcam footage is asked to contact PC Leah Hutchins at Norfolk Police on 101 or via email at email@example.com.
Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Over £200,000 lost to courier fraud in Norfolk
People over the age of 70 are being disproportionately targeted by courier fraud, new data from the City of London Police reveals.
Data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud, revealed that people in their 70s or older lost more than £12.6 million tocourier fraud last year, 77 per cent of all money stolen by this type of fraud.
The split of fraud reports made by men and women aged 70 or above was 37 per cent and 63 per cent. Shockingly, data shows 153 reports were made by people in their 90s with one report being from someone aged over 100.
In the last year (May 2022 to May 2023), 1,587 reports of courier fraud were made by people over the age of 70 across the UK. There were a total of 1,847 reports of courier fraud.
The top areas, where 43 per cent of all reports were received from victims, were the Metropolitan, Surrey, Sussex, Thames Valley and Hampshire police areas. In the last year, a total of £16.3 million was lost to courier fraud.
Action Fraud received 39 reports in Norfolk over the past year with victim’s losing £206,680.
Reports to Action Fraud, also run by the City of London Police, identified a link of courier fraudsters targeting locations such as retirement homes and villages, care homes and buildings that provided assisted living, often targeting some of the country’s most vulnerable and oldest members of society.
Detective Chief Inspector Lee Parish, from the Fraud Operations team at City of London Police, said:
“Courier fraud is a devastating crime that preys on vulnerable and often older people. Millions of pounds of hard-earned pensions and savings are being stolen each year and we are concentrating efforts to stop courier fraud at the source.
“We’ve seen a growing trend of courier fraud taking place in and around retirement villages, care homes and assisted living accommodation. We’re asking family members and staff supporting older people across the UK to be vigilant, especially for incoming phone calls to residents, couriers arriving by motorbike or taxi and to any visitors who unexpectedly arrive.
“Banks or police officers will never send a courier to pick up cash, bank cards or pin codes from individuals and we would encourage anyone who thinks they are being targeted to report it using Action Fraud and also reporting separately to their bank. If there is a crime currently taking place, you should always call 999.”
The City of London Police led an intensification period on operational activity to target those who commit courier fraud. Additional resources were used, facilitated by City of London Police, to scale up both existing and new investigations that resulted in multiple warrants executed across the country.
What is courier fraud?
Courier fraud is a sophisticated scam that preys on the trust and vulnerability of individuals. The perpetrators often employ cunning tactics to deceive victims into believing they are assisting the police or employees from their bank. This type of fraud typically begins with a phone call or email, where the fraudsters pose as bank officials, police officers, or other authority figures.
Once they establish contact, the fraudsters manipulate their victims with convincing stories, often claiming that there has been fraudulent activity on their bank accounts. They will try to create a sense of urgency and coerce the victims into complying with their demands.
One common tactic in courier fraud involves convincing victims to withdraw large sums of money from their bank accounts. The fraudsters instruct the victims to place the cash in an envelope or bag and hand it over to a courier who will visit their home to collect it.
Courier fraudsters have also been known to coerce victims in to using mini cabs and taxi services where they are then sent to jewellers to purchase high-value items. Reports have also shown that victims have been sent to foreign exchange bureaus, where they are instructed to electronically transfer money for “safe-keeping”.
Another variation of courier fraud involves convincing victims to hand over their bank cards, PIN numbers, or other sensitive information such as answers to security questions. The fraudsters claim that they need these details to verify the legitimacy of the victim's account or to assist in their investigation. Once the victims disclose this information, the fraudsters gain access to their funds and can carry out unauthorised transactions.
To stay safe and protect yourself, remember:
Your bank or the police will never call and ask you to verify your personal details or PIN. If you get a call asking you to do this, hang up, wait a few minutes and call your bank on a number you know to be genuine, such as the one on the back of your card
Your bank or the police will never send a courier to your home to collect your cash, bank cards, PINs, or any other valuable goods. Any requests to do so are part of a scam
The police will not contact you out of the blue and ask you to participate in an investigation that requires you to withdraw money from your bank, or to purchase high value goods, such as jewellery or gold
Remember, staying cautious and sceptical can go a long way in protecting yourself from courier fraud. Take the time to verify information, seek advice from trusted sources, and never rush into making financial decisions under pressure.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040, or call Police Scotland on 101.
Norfolk Constabulary, Jubilee House, Falconers Chase, Wymondham, Norfolk, NR18 0WW