A police force has launched a “neighbourhood watch on horseback” in the hope of reducing wildlife crime.
The rider volunteer scheme was launched this month by Wiltshire Police following 18 months of development by the force’s rural crime team and volunteer organisation Citizens in Policing, with input from Horse Watch and Farm Watch. The scheme aims to recruit horse owners to help report unusual or criminal activities they see while hacking out.
Citizens in Policing supervisor Sarah Holden said it was “heartening” to see the number of people who thought the scheme would be 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,” she said.
“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.”
To take part, volunteers must own a horse and be insured. In return they will be trained on what to look out for, how to report any unusual or criminal activities, and conflict management. Volunteers will wear clearly marked fluorescent tabards and bridle markings displaying “Wiltshire horse rider volunteer”.
“We have been fortunate to receive generous funding from Historic England for the fluorescent items,” said PC Emily Thomas of the rural crime team.
“This month one of our PCSOs will visit the stables and livery yards of those who have become volunteers to do a spot check and hand out the tabards. We are also training those who want to stamp tack to help protect items that could be stolen.”
Heritage England’s Nick Croxson said the organisation is excited about the introduction of the 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,” he said.
Owners who want to volunteer should contact the Citizens in Policing or rural crime team, or complete the online application form.
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