Operation Artemis,  launched by Wiltshire Police’s Rural Crime Team has seen a dramatic increase in arrests for poaching, mainly due to better reporting to the police by rural-based organisations such as the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.

Operation Artemis, which was launched last September by Wiltshire Police’s Rural Crime Team has seen a dramatic increase in arrests for poaching, mainly due to better reporting to the police by rural-based organisations such as the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.

Poaching can take many forms from illegal hare coursing with dogs, shooting deer at night to using catapults to take pheasants. It is a unique offence that affects most rural areas and can be very stressful for both people, property and wildlife.

PC Marc Jackson, who runs Operation Artemis for the Wiltshire Rural Crime Team is delighted with this result and said, “The image of the poacher ‘taking one for the pot’ has long since gone.  Poaching now frequently involves criminal gangs with links to other organised crime groups, often with large sums of money exchanging hands. They are involved in all elements of criminality affecting all communities across Wiltshire.  Their activities often lead to serious damage to property as well as potentially engaging in violence if challenged.  Although we are pleased with this result there is still much more to do to prevent this type of crime.”

Nick Stiff, Chairman of the Wiltshire Branch of the National Gamekeepers Organisation said, “This important initiative sends a very clear message that poaching of any kind has no part to play in our working countryside.  We have witnessed first-hand the considerable damage that poaching can cause to our estate in Wiltshire and I am pleased to support the Rural Crime Officers in any way we can. We would also urge all our members to report any suspicious activity on their land to the police.  This is the only way we are going to stop these serious crimes happening in the county.”

PC Marc Jackson said, “Gamekeepers are crucial to this operation, particularly when we run nightly operations. And we are very grateful to the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation for providing valuable training to 20 of our Wildlife Crime Officers on illegal traps and snares.  Gamekeepers, together with farmers and MOD staff are out day and night and are our eyes and ears in rural areas.”

But as Marc Jackson say, “Key to prevention however is to report any suspicious activities.  The more we hear about these crimes then the more resources we can put towards catching these criminals. People who are engaged in poaching are breaking the law and often also committing many other forms of crime, including theft from farm and agricultural buildings, vehicle offences and so on.   Reporting any poaching incidents therefore helps us to form an intelligence picture so we can be proactive in targeting offenders.”

Operation Artemis sits within the national operation, Project Poacher, which is coordinated throughout England and Wales by the National Wildlife Crime Unit. The success of this initiative has seen the numbers and types of convictions since its inception increase from 44% to 55% in the past six months.  The initiative also has a free, easy to use app for reporting poaching incidents, which can be downloaded at www.projectpoacher.com

Although in decline in many areas, Wiltshire is fortunate to have a very healthy brown hare population, making the county an attractive target for illegal hare coursing with dogs.  But through the success of Operation Artemis, it seems that poachers are starting to target other counties such as Avon, Somerset and Dorset. 

Marc Jackson said, “We are working with other Rural Crime Teams in nearby counties, who wish to set up their own Operation Artemis.  This will hopefully mean that these criminals have no-where to hide and it will help to reduce their illegal operations substantially.”

However, as Marc Jackson says, “Reporting these crimes plays a vital role in stamping out these criminal activities in Wiltshire. When phoning please provide descriptions of the person or people committing the offence and the vehicle particulars, including make, colour and the registration number. Also make sure you clearly state ‘Operation Artemis’ to help the police track the call. Do however, be aware of your own safety.”

In ‘hot spot’ areas, landowners and farmers are being advised to deter poachers by digging ditches or adding secure gates to prevent access to land.  In some cases covert cameras are beneficial to help identify offenders.

The success of Operation Artemis in the county has meant that the Wiltshire Rural Crime Team has been joined by PC Emily Thomas, who will be working alongside PC Marc Jackson in south Wiltshire.

As Marc Jackson said, reporting any incidence of poaching is key to catching these criminals.  If it is an ongoing incident, please call 999 or if the incident has already occurred please call 101. Callers should make sure they clearly state ‘Operation Artemis’ to help the police track the call.  Alternatively for further details or advice on Operation Artemis, please email Marc Jackson on: Marc.Jackson@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk


Photocaption: Wiltshire is fortunate to have a healthy brown hare population but this attracts poachers to the county who carry out illegal hare coursing, Picture Credit: Peter Thompson



Notes to editors:

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NG)) represents the gamekeepers of England and Wales. The NGO defends and promotes gamekeeping and gamekeepers and works to ensure high standards throughout the profession. The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation was founded in 1997 by a group of gamekeepers who felt that keepering was threatened by public misunderstanding and poor representation. Today, there are 13,000 members of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.  www.nationalgamekeepers.org.uk



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