Talking about the Wiltshire Horse Rider Volunteer scheme, Sarah Holden, Citizens in Policing Supervisor said: “Citizens in Policing and the Rural Crime Team have been working to develop this concept over the past 18 months using our contacts within Horse Watch and Farm Watch to see if there was an appetite for such an initiative. It was heartening to see the number of people who thought this was a positive step in the fight against crime in rural areas and were eager to be involved.”
“The concept is simple. In a large rural county there are many people who own horses and hack across the bridleways and countryside in places that may not easily be accessible by a vehicle. We have asked them to volunteer as a Neighbourhood Watch on horseback and report back on any unusual activity they see. Typically, riders will be looking out for any signs of wildlife crime such as poaching or raptor persecution, general theft of livestock, feed or fertiliser and particularly heritage crimes.”
Volunteers need to have their own horse and be insured. In return the volunteers are being trained on what to look for, how to report any unusual or criminal activities and in conflict management.
“When the volunteers are out riding, they are highly visible wearing clearly marked fluorescent tabards, funded by Historic England, and horse bridle markings with ‘Wiltshire Horse Rider Volunteer’ and the Heritage Watch and Horse Watch logos,” said PC Emily Thomas from the Rural Crime Team.
“We have been fortunate to receive generous funding from Historic England for the fluorescent items. Later this month one of our PCSOs will visit the stables and livery yards who have become volunteers to do a spot check and hand out the tabards. We are also training those who want to be tack stamp trained or stamping tack as required to help protect items that could be stolen.”
Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England, Mark Harrison said: “We’re delighted to support Wiltshire Police’s Heritage Watch scheme which raises awareness and understanding of the threats posed by crime and anti-social behaviour to our heritage. Through Heritage Watch partnerships we can better prevent crime and hold offenders to account. The Horse Rider Volunteer Scheme is a great innovation as part of Wiltshire’s Heritage Watch scheme.”
“People have lived and worked in Wiltshire for thousands of years and during this time our ancestors have left us with an amazing legacy that we can see in the form of historic buildings, sites and features in the landscape. Unfortunately, a small criminal minority are responsible for causing damage or loss to this precious and finite resource. In many cases the damage is severe and irreversible.”
Nick Croxson, Heritage at Risk Project Office at Historic England, commented: “We’re excited about the introduction of the Wiltshire Horse Rider Volunteer Scheme. It will be great to have volunteers out on horseback supporting the rural community, able to keep an eye on Wiltshire’s historic places, and to recognise and report heritage crime.”