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November 29, 2020 1:54 PM

Councillors in the South West of the county have written to the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief constable asking for the urgent allocation of more police resources to the Countryside following a pronounced increase in rural crime during the pandemic.

Nigel Hartin, Shropshire Councillor for Clun Division, said: "The Shropshire Countryside has always been under-policed but now resources have been stretched to breaking point. Police Officers are thin on the ground and addition now have to police the pandemic restrictions. Unfortunately, criminals are taking advantage of the situation. Not only are we seeing more thefts of items from garages and outhouses but even pedigree dogs are being targeted."

Ruth Houghton (BIshop's Castle Division) added: "We also have a serious problem with wildlife crime in our area including reports of instances of 'cubbing'* and hare coursing.

"We have had issues with hare coursing in the Bishop's Castle area for some time and our local police have been trying to combat it. Normally what we see is large numbers of people from out of the area descending on known hare habitats to carry out this illegal activity. What has only recently come to light is the linkage between this activity and other crimes such as theft from property. It seems that many come into our area not only to kill hares but also to steal."

Heather concluded; " Enforcement of wildlife crime committed during the development of buildings in our area is also a problem. There is a great deal of upgrading of old buildings, barn conversions and other development ** going on and there is precious little enforcement of planning conditions and the police frequently do not have the time or training to intervene when bat roosts or birds nest are destroyed. I know of a number of instances of this occurring and the perpetrators have not been brought to book."

The Councillors are asking for more police resources to be allocated generally to rural Shropshire but also for officers to receive more training in wildlife crime. Ideally, .the force should appoint dedicated wildlife crime officers like in other police force areas.

There are also calling on Shropshire Council's Planning Department to work more closely with the police on wildlife crime issues.

For further information contact Heather Kidd on 079806 35518 or heather.kidd@shropshire.gov.uk

* Throwing fox cubs to packs of dogs.

** this can include felling of trees and hedges.