Five Scottish Forces have come together to mount co-ordinated operations aimed at tackling the problem of hare coursing along the east coast of Scotland.
In an extension of Operation Lepus, Lothian and Borders, Central Scotland Police, Fife Constabulary, Tayside Police and Grampian Police have obtained PAW funding to assist in mounting patrols throughout March.
Whilst it is acknowledged that this is not a time when hare coursers are particularly active, it is hoped that mounting a high profile operation at this time may deter much of the activity which takes place later in the year.
It is recognised that many of those involved in this activity are highly mobile and organised. This has prompted the forces to join together sharing intelligence, which is circulated in real time, allowing more effective prevention. The operation also involves extensive contact with those involved in land management letting them know about the operation and offering the opportunity to share information.
Chief Inspector Kevin Findlater, Central Scotland Police said:
"Experience has proven that almost all of those that illegally use dogs to run down and kill hares are involved in other rural criminality - that invariably includes other forms of wildlife crime and often opportunistic thefts from those whose land they encroach upon.
"Operation Lepus sends a very strong message that, as with hares here, police and other PAW partners will not tolerate attacks upon Scotland's valued rural and natural heritage.
"I must also recognise the valuable contribution of those within rural communities whom have passed information on hare coursing and other such crimes to the police - as this timely intelligence better targets resultant action."
Lothian and Borders Police, Central Scotland Police and Fife Constabulary are working together on a PAWS funded operation tackling Salmon Poaching, together with the Forth River Salmon Fisheries Board and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Co-ordinated 'days of action' have been identified throughout March focusing on all tributaries of the River Forth.
PC Ruaridh Hamilton, Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator for Lothian and Borders Police said
"All three forces have recognised that there was an issue with salmon poaching in our areas. Angling clubs on the various rivers complained that while they were fishing responsibly and within the law there were others whose actions were the exact opposite of this. We have had immense support from these anglers, who are delighted to see concerted Police operations to deter these activities"
The patrols begin as early as 6am and go on till 2am the following morning. On the first day, and within 45 minutes of the operation beginning, three men were reported to the Procurator Fiscal for offences directly attributable to this operation.
In addition, all anglers have their permit checked and are handed leaflets relating to poaching prevention. Baillifs work directly with Police Officers offering their expertise.
Superintendent Bill Cunningham, Forth District Salmon Fishery Board said:
"The growing partnership between the Forth District Salmon Fishery board and the police forces within the board's district can only be for the good.
"It is hoped that in due course by working together this will greatly reduce the amount of illegal fishing that is taking place at the present thus helping to improve the wild fish stocks."
Preparing for Christmas
In November and December 2010 PAW Scotland assisted in funding a joint Operation between Lothian and Borders Police and Fife Constabulary targeting poaching.
In the lead up to Christmas poaching increases as people look for purchase luxury food items including venison and salmon - illegally taken salmon and venison are often sold cheaply.
Salmon are often caught by nets stretched across rivers, which can catch anything swimming in that river including drowning otters and diving birds. Deer are caught by setting dogs on them, snaring them or shooting them with unsuitable weapons - all of which can cause the deer to die a slow, lingering and painful death.
In the vast majority of cases the criminals carrying out this sort of crime are doing so for financial gain.
Poaching has a negative effect on salmon and deer, in direct conflict with the conservation efforts of responsible deerstalkers and salmon anglers. In many of the areas salmon anglers are operating catch and release schemes during the open season in order to preserve the breeding stock for future generations of anglers. Deerstalkers undergo extensive training in marksmanship and carcase preparation to ensure that a quality product is produced.
In the lead up to this operation full intelligence analysis was completed by the National Wildlife Crime Unit, allowing the Police to target resources to known poaching hot spots at times most likely to catch people. Landowners and other countryside users such as BASC and the SGA were informed of the operation so that an up to date picture could be established. The culprits for these types of crimes often have access to cars and vans and will travel to other Police forces to carry out their illegal activities.
Patrols involving Officers from both Police Forces started as early at 4am targeting, deer coursers, and went on throughout the day looking at illegal fishing. While the severe weather in December prevented the poachers gaining access to many areas, a person was reported for trying to illegally take salmon on the River Leven.
Ruaraidh Hamilton, Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator for Lothian and Borders Police said:
"This is an example of what Police Forces can do, together with partners in PAW Scotland, to target the criminals with a high degree of mobility involved in poaching. Although it was unfortunate that we had heavy snow falls and deep lying snow in December, which prevented most of the country from getting out, this was a worthwhile exercise and produced some good results."
Articles provided by Fife Constabulary and Lothian and Borders Police for PAW Scotland, 2011.