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Essex Police is continuing its commitment to prevent rural and heritage crime with the innovative launch of a horseback volunteer scheme in Uttlesford.
Our force continues to work hard to prevent and detect crime in rural areas, this includes also ensuring our sites of historical importance remain protected against damage or criminality.
Whilst our officers continue to actively patrol, act upon intelligence and arrest those committing offences, we have now also teamed up with Uttlesford District Council to launch a new trial initiative to bolster our efforts and work with our communities.
The Essex Horse Rider Volunteers Scheme will see volunteers on horseback, who regularly use bridleways, footpaths and narrow country lanes that are not easily accessible by vehicles, becoming our eyes and ears.
The idea behind the scheme is that horse riders are in a unique position to spot signs of suspicious activity related to offences such as hare coursing, stolen agricultural vehicles, unlawful metal detecting or theft of lead from protected heritage buildings.
The horseback volunteers will be trained in what to look out for and will be able to report any concerns or suspicious activity to Essex Police helping us to target those committing offences and stop criminality before it happens.
Rural crime such as those affecting farms, livestock or wildlife can have a unique and significant impact both on the livelihoods of farmers but also on protected or endangered species and animals being treated inhumanely.
Heritage crime can have an equally devastating impact with sites of historical interest – including our churches, monuments and historic buildings – ruined or lost for our future generations.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan, Essex Police’s lead for local policing and the national lead for Heritage Crime, said:
“I’m delighted we are launching the Essex Horse Rider Volunteer Scheme.
“We always work closely with our communities and this scheme really builds on that.
“Horse riders really know their local communities and are brilliantly placed to identify and report suspicious behaviour, especially off the beaten track.
“In Essex we have an excellent volunteer network and existing watch schemes – working with the equine community and local authorities, such as Uttlesford District Council, to expand upon this is the natural next step in tackling rural and heritage crime”
Cllr Maggie Sutton, Portfolio Holder for Communities, Health, Youth, Public Safety, Emergency Planning at Uttlesford District Council said:
“We recognise how rural crime affects farms, livestock and wildlife and targets individuals and rural businesses and the lasting impact it has on Uttlesford residents.
“We are hoping for any horse riders in Uttlesford to consider joining us with this scheme and help to be the eyes and ears for our rural communities in reporting suspicious activity and crime.”
Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England, Mark Harrison, also welcomed the scheme and hopes volunteer horse riders will help keep a watchful eye on historical sites in Uttlesford. He said:
“People have lived in Essex for thousands of years and during this time our ancestors have left us with an amazing legacy that we can see in the form of historic buildings, archaeological sites and features in the landscape.
“Unfortunately, a small criminal minority are responsible for causing damage or loss to this precious and sensitive resource. In many cases the loss or damage is severe and often irreversible.
“The Essex Horse Rider Volunteer Scheme provides an exciting development to Essex Heritage Watch.”
And Dr Will Fletcher, Team Leader, Historic England East Of England added:
“Historic England are pleased to support the Essex Horse Rider Volunteer Scheme.
“The scheme will help to raise the level of awareness and understanding of the threat of crime and anti-social behaviour to historic sites and buildings across the district.”
Horse riders interested in taking part in the scheme will need to hold public liability insurance for the horse they ride and their animal must be well cared for. Volunteers will be provided with information as to what to look out for and how best to report any criminal activity.
If you are a horse rider within the Uttlesford District and would be interested in learning more, please log an expression of interest.
Anyone interested in joining our scheme will be invited to an event to learn more about the scheme and how to spot suspicious activity. Introduction sessions are available online or in person. Initial sessions are planned for:
Following the trial it is hoped the scheme will be rolled out across the rest of Essex in 2023.