Wiltshire Police are today launching Operation Artemis in a bid to tackle all aspects of poaching across the county.
The force says it is encouraging the public to report all incidents of poaching to help build a better intelligence picture and enable its officers to target offenders through rural operations.
The operation will also aim to advise rural communities how they can best prevent and disrupt poaching activity on their land.
The operation sits under the nationally recognised poaching operation Project Trespass which aims to coordinate action across England and Wales through prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance.
Rural Crime Officer PC Marc Jackson said: ‘As part of the rural crime partnership we have listened to the concerns of landowners, farmers, game keepers and agricultural workers within Wiltshire.
‘We understand the impact poaching has on their livelihoods and the resulting fear of crime that comes from this.
‘We want Operation Artemis to reassure our rural communities that we do take poaching seriously, and anybody found to be committing such offences here will be dealt with robustly. Wiltshire is not a soft touch and we will use the full legislation powers that have been given to us as the police.
‘The image of poaching has drastically changed over the years. The idea of poachers just taking one for the pot is no longer the case.
‘Many of the groups involved are very organised and travel vast distances, across numerous counties to participate in poaching.
‘Often poaching involves vast amounts of money through illegal betting and can be connected to other crimes like burglaries, thefts and can involve intimidation and violence towards landowners and gamekeepers.”
Poaching becomes more frequent when the harvests come down at the end of the summer, peaking in October and December. This year harvests have been early so potential poachers can access the fields earlier than usual meaning officers have already seen an increase in poaching in September.
Poaching can take many forms, from hare coursing, shooting deer at night to using catapults to take pheasants.
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: ‘Wiltshire is a rural county and those living in isolated locations can be vulnerable to crime types that do not affect urban areas.
‘It is important that the Force police rural crime as part of its overall policing.
‘Rural crime can have a huge impact on local people and businesses. I welcome this new operation and applaud the ongoing work being done by the Rural Crime Team and the Wiltshire Rural Crime Partnership to help keep Wiltshire safe.’
When reporting incidents, members of the public are asked to call 101 and quote ‘Operation Artemis’. If a crime is in progress they should call 999.