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Exmoor poachers targeted as police join national park in blitz on rural crime

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 17, 2014

  • A red deer stag on Exmoor, where an increase in deer poaching has concerned the national park authority and led to the launch of a group involving local police forces, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and others

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Poachers are in the sights of a new group launched to tackle rural crime on Exmoor.

An increase in deer poaching has sparked concern from the Exmoor National Park Authority, which is already in regular contact with Avon and Somerset and Devon and Cornwall police.

Now, other agencies with an interest in protecting the natural environment have teamed up to create the Exmoor Rural Crime Initiative, which will target illegal practices.

The new group comprises the two police forces, Exmoor National Park Authority, the National Trust, Environment Agency, the Crown Estate, River Exe Tributaries Association, Forestry Commission and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

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Exmoor National Park Authority ranger Richard Eales said: "The group's purpose is to have a partnership approach in dealing with all aspects of rural crime within the greater Exmoor area.

"While this is a joint agency initiative I would encourage the community to report all aspects of crime, including wildlife crime, directly to the police."

The three main objectives of the group are preventing deer and fish poaching, preventing illegal off-road driving and raising awareness and about crime and crime reduction.

Sergeant Andy Whysall, of Avon and Somerset police, said: "This is an excellent example of how, by working together, we can raise public confidence within our local communities and those visiting the greater Exmoor area.

"The group's timely formation fits in with the National Wildlife Crime Unit's Project Trespass, which will assist in achieving the objectives of the group – they will look to be particularly active in the coming autumn when the majority of deer and fish poaching takes place."

Project Trespass, a new initiative to tackle the scourge of poaching, was launched late last year. Designed to provide a coordinated response to incidents of poaching, the strategic group includes police, shooting interests and landowners.

Detective Inspector Nevin Hunter, who is on secondment from Devon and Cornwall Police, heads the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU).

Almost half (44 per cent) of all wildlife crime reported to the NWCU relates to "poaching intelligence", including the targeting of deer, fish and game.

"Poaching is a criminal activity – all poachers are trespassers and analysis by the NWCU over the past two years shows that, given an opportunity, poachers have diversified into thefts, burglaries, assaults and other rural crimes," he said when the project was unveiled.

"Many police forces are developing rural crime strategies where the tackling of all wildlife crime and particularly poaching is a priority. Project Trespass will help in the effort to coordinate intelligence and responses to reports of crime."

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