Game of Drones

An update on policing matters in Nottinghamshire from CLA Rural Surveyor Claire Wright.

There have been some big changes of late with Nottinghamshire Police. Sadly we said goodbye to Chief Inspector Andy Rooke who has been the Rural Crime Lead for the past few years. His enthusiasm and dedication will be much missed. Stepping into this role is Chief Inspector Liz Rogers. As a result of these changes there has been a hiatus on meetings of the Nottinghamshire Rural Crime Forum; however the representative partners met last month and meetings will now be held quarterly as before.

The meeting brings together police officers; representatives from the CLA, NFU, Environment Agency & Nottinghamshire Rural support with farmers, gamekeepers and land managers from across the county with the aim of sharing intelligence and trying to get a handle on the current rural crime trends.

As part of the agenda we were joined by Chief Inspector Dave Gallagher who will be heading up the brand new drone unit. The team now have 15 trained drone pilots who will have a dedicated vehicle based at Force HQ containing three different drones. This means that officers on the ground will have 24/7 access to drones for emergency incidents or planned operations.  The largest drone has a zoom capability of 350x and also has thermal imaging capability to see people in even the thickest woodland.

The live stream from the drone can be sent direct to the control room or firearms commander as required. Due to strict restrictions on flying drones in populated, urban settings it is anticipated that the most exciting application of the drone team will be in rural areas where it is likely to load the dice in favour of officers called out to incidents such as poaching by armed trespassers or missing persons. The team will officially launch in January 2020.

The confirmed uplift in funding from the latest government spending commitment will see Nottinghamshire gain an extra 107 officers by March 2020. There is a stated aim to increase officer numbers to 2300 from the current 1980. These extra officers will be spread evenly across the county and the rural areas will slowly, begin to see an improvement in staffing.

Concerns were raised about the model of rural policing within the county – nearby forces such as Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire have opted for the Rural Crime Team model which has seen a great deal of success. Nottinghamshire has not at the time of writing opted for a dedicated rural team although many officers with rural beats have been sent on the National Wildlife Crime training course. There is a worry that some offenders are being displaced from areas where officers and resources are being committed and leaving Nottinghamshire vulnerable. Some landowners expressed anxiety about the lack of continuity and relationship building between officers and rural communities as a result of officers moving to new postings.

On a more positive note all control room staff have now received a training package on rural issues; it would appear that this training has improved the handling of calls from rural communities. The latest statistics (from 1st June 2019 to November 2019) show that there have been 19 poaching incidents and that all were categorised as red or pink incidents by control room staff (these are the highest levels requiring an immediate response or a response within 20 minutes). There is still a worry that incidents are being under-reported. Police staff reiterated that it was vital to use 999 for a crime in progress whether poaching or something else and 101 or online reporting to send intelligence/reports after the event.

I am now handing membership of the Rural Crime forum to my successor as Regional Surveyor in the East but I know that she will continue to represent the interests of CLA members from the county.