Rural, Wildlife and Heritage Crime

Date published: 10 September 2020 09:06

Neighbourhood Policing in South Yorkshire provides communities with teams of dedicated officers, together with police community support officers, who listen to and work with, the public, community groups, partner agencies and businesses to reduce crime, protect the vulnerable and enhance community safety through problem solving approaches.

"South Yorkshire Police are committed to work with all agencies across a wide range of wildlife, environmental and countryside issues.

We aim to develop effective partnerships, promote preventive strategies that improve the understanding of wildlife & rural crime issues.

We have a statutory duty to enforce the law on wildlife, environmental crime & rural crime".

Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley

South Yorkshire Police have approved is first two full time officers. This investment is the growth of a Sergeant and PC dedicated to Wildlife Crime. These officers will be a consistent point of contact and will aid the coordination of resources across the force.

South Yorkshire Police has 50 Accredited Wildlife Crime Officers who carry out the role in addition to their day to day duties, with a number of these officers incorporated within Neighbourhood Policing teams. The numbers are inclusive of Community Support Officers and Crime Scene Investigators.

Their role incorporates:

  • Preventing and reducing wildlife crime
  • Working in partnership with other organisations
  • Investigation of crimes against wildlife and the environment.

What is Rural Crime?

Rural crime is an issue for large areas of the country, but it tends to go unreported. It can impact on insurance premiums, food prices and damage local communities.

It can be hard to know whether something is a crime and whether to contact the police or another charity or organisation.

Rural crime tends to fall into different categories:

Wildlife Crime and Heritage Crime are covered by specific legislation and more detailed information is provided on this page.

Agricultural and Equine Crime are encompased within legislation relating to Theft, Burglary and Damage offences

Rural Crime can also fall under Environmental Crime, which covers illegal waste dumping, fly tipping, polluting watercourses and land. Many waste of enivornmental issues needs to be reporting to your local council or other agencies

Agricultural crime covers working farms, farm machinery, farm buildings and smallholdings. Offences include theft of equipment or fuel, damage to property and livestock worrying.

Equine crime covers working stables and equestrian centres and includes offences like tack theft and livestock worrying.

What is Wildlife Crime?

It can be difficult to know what is or isn’t a wildlife crime and when it’s right to involve us. Wildlife and animal crime takes many forms from hare coursing, trade in endangered species, persecution of protected species to livestock worrying. Find out what is a crime and what you can do about it.

Wildlife crime is any activity that goes against legislation protecting the UK's wild animals and plants. It can cause pain and suffering to animals, push species closer to extinction and can be linked to other serious crimes like firearms offences and organised crime.

Wildlife law is complicated and it can be hard to know whether something is a crime and whether, or when, to involve the police.

Types of Wildlife Crime?

  • poaching
  • coursing
  • persecution of badgers, birds and bats
  • egg theft and collection
  • collection of or trade in protected species and animal products
  • not registering animals which require a licence
  • taking protected plants
  • use of poisons, snares or explosives to kill or injure animals
  • animal cruelty
  • hunting with dogs
  • introducing invasive species
  • killing or capturing, damaging or destroying the habitat of any protected animal.

What is Heritage Crime?

Heritage crime is "any offence which harms the value of England's heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations".

Heritage assets are sites which are considered to have a value to the heritage of England and include:

  • Listed buildings
  • Scheduled monuments
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Protected marine wreck sites
  • Conservation areas
  • Registered parks and gardens
  • Registered battlefields
  • Protected military remains of aircraft and vessels of historic interest
  • Undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites

Crimes against heritage sites might also include theft, criminal damage, arson and anti-social behaviour.

If you own or live near a heritage site

Many land owners have ancient monuments and archaeological areas within or near to their property.

You cannot carry out work on a scheduled monument without the consent of English Heritage or your Local Authority Conservation Department.

A landowner cannot give permission for a person to use a metal detector on a scheduled monument.

Metal detecting in a specified location without consent could amount to theft. Illegal detecting at night is sometimes referred to as “Night Hawking”.

How to Report it

If you think a rural, wildlife or heritage crime is being committed then contact us, either report a crime online or by calling 101. If you’re not sure it’s a crime, we’d rather hear from you and determine that ourselves.

You can also report rural, wildlife or heritage crime anonymously to Crimestoppers, by calling 0800 555 111.

You should always call 999 when it is an emergency, such as when a crime is in progress, someone suspected of a crime is nearby, when there is danger to life or when violence is being used or threatened.

All incidents of illegal activity should be reported to the appropriate authority as soon as possible. If you are able to, make a note of any vehicle details and a description of the people involved.

Always consider your own personal safety first before approaching anyone you think might be doing something illegal.

Road traffic incidents involving animals

If you hit a dog, horse, cow, pig, goat, sheep or donkey (or a mule) then you must report that to us, whether the animal is killed or not.

If you hit a wild animal accidentally and you can't take it to a vet immediately or safely, you need to contact us on 101, as allowing a wild animal to suffer is an offence.

Hitting a wild animal deliberately is an offence under the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act

If you hit and kill a wild animal, you must leave it safely by the roadside and notify the local council so they can remove the remains. Some wild animals are protected and it is an offence to possess one, dead or alive.

If you come across animals loose on the road and there’s a danger to traffic, call 999.

Other crimes involving animals

We work with the RSPCA to investigate animal cruelty. To report cruelty, neglect or abuse, you can go to the RSPCA's website or call them on 0300 1234 999 (lines open 24 hours a day).

Incidents involving dogs, either a dog that's out of control in a public place, a breed of dog that's been banned or dog fighting, must be reported to us, either by reporting a crime online or by calling 101.

Other incidents involving rural aspects or wildlife

Noise pollution - This needs to be reported to your local council. Find your local council

Waste and litter - Litter and waste dumps need to be reported to your local council. Find your local council

Fly tipping, the dumping of waste, needs to be reported to the local council. Find your local council

Pests -  You can contact your council to find out if they offer services to control pests like wasps, rats, mice or bedbugs. Find your local council

Discarded syringes or drug paraphernalia -Your local council will arrange for syringes and drug paraphernalia left in public to be removed. Find your local council

You can report dangerous buildings or structures to your local council. Find your local council  

Burst water mains - Who to report this to, your council, the environment agency or the utility company, depends on the circumstances. Gov.uk gives a useful breakdown of who to contact.

Garden bonfires - There’s no law against having a bonfire in your garden, but there are laws on the nuisance they can cause. Find more information on Gov.uk.

Rural Crime Prevention Advice

Equipment and tool security

Equipment and tool security can be a particular issue for rural businesses and farms.

To keep your belongings safe:

  • lock equipment away in a secure building or part of a building when not in use
  • invest in a secure storage toolbox
  • install a burglar alarm on buildings where equipment is kept

(Some remote farm buildings may not have mains electricity, but solar powered alarms are now available)

  • always lock vehicles when left outside and keep the keys in your possession
  • keep expensive items and vehicles out of sight when not in use
  • consider using hitch locks, wheel clamps or ground anchors
  • mark your tools and equipment and register them
  • keep a record of all valuable items
  • consider fitting outside security lights

For further information on securing your belongings and how to mark your equipment, visit

www.securebydesign.com or www.soldsecure.com.

Estate and building security

A good standard of building security is very important in rural areas, especially for outbuildings that may not be visited for weeks at a time.

Farmhouses and other rural properties are the same as any other home, so general home security advice still applies. However, because of the remote location, additional security measures may be beneficial.

To protect your rural home or business:

  • keep the boundaries of your land and property well-maintained and secure
  • keep all doors and windows shut and locked when not in use
  • install a visible burglar alarm
  • make sure windows and door frames are secure and in good repair
  • fit strong locks to sheds, garages and outbuildings
  • fit good quality window locks
  • consider security bars and grilles for vulnerable windows and openings
  • make sure gates cannot be lifted off or have their fixing bolts removed
  • check security equipment regularly to ensure it works properly
  • use locking posts or temporary obstructions to control wide access points to yards.

For additional security you could also

  • install automatic security lights that come on at dusk and turn off at dawn

(LED lighting is the preferred standard, the average LED burns for 55,000 hours and will cost very little to run)

  • install CCTV cameras to watch over the most vulnerable areas of the property
  • install a monitored intruder alarm system
  • install an entry control system infrared, intercom or keypad
  • establish a single gated entrance and exit, removing all private access points that are not in


Take a good look around your property boundary for any potential places where it could be made more secure.


  • Defensive planting (planting thorny hedging to act as a natural barrier)
  • digging deep ditches to control and deter unwanted vehicle access
  • if possible, having a single-gated access point to the property
  • using locking posts or temporary obstructions to control large openings
  • invert and cap gate hinges
  • making sure fixing bolts are secure and use covered padlocks
  • installing warning signs.

Diesel theft

Diesel theft is a problem for many farms and rural properties. Fuel tanks stored in rural and isolated locations are very attractive to thieves looking for an easy target.

  • Keep tanks stored close to the property where you can see them. If this isn’t possible, you

should consider installing CCTV to watch over isolated tanks and restrict access with walls,

fences and hedges. Security lighting such as ‘dusk till dawn’ or motion detection lighting

can also be an effective deterrent to thieves.

  • Remember to check the oil level in your tank regularly. Look for any spilt fuel, marks on the

locks or anything else suspicious.

  • Avoid installing a storage tank in an isolated area or outlying building.
  • Consider using a mobile bowser (tanker) kept in a secure place when not in use.
  • Use ‘diesel dye’, making your diesel traceable and less attractive to thieves.

Livestock theft

You should check your livestock and the security of boundary fencing regularly. If they're making more noise than usual this could mean something has disturbed them.

  • Make regular checks of the fields where animals are kept to check that fences haven’t been

breached and that no one else is in the field with them.

  • Use ear tags, horn brands, freeze marking or tattooing to make your animals more easily


  • Keep your hedges, fences and gates in good repair: field gate hinges should have capping

hinges so they can't be removed easily; cattle grids should be removable and locked out of

position when they're not in use; use locking posts to obstruct large openings to yards.

  • Consider installing CCTV.

Always report any suspicious activity involving livestock to the police.

Metal theft

Old buildings, in particular churches, are often a target for metal thieves.

consider the following security measures for church buildings:

  • Keep doors and gates locked and bolted when not in use and keep the number of key holders to a minimum.
  • Protect windows by fitting wire mesh or polycarbonate covering.
  • Keep cellar flaps secured.  If no longer in use, consider having the entrance blocked up.
  • Keep valuable items out of site in a safe and do not keep cash on the premises.
  • Keep the churchyard well maintained to give the appearance of regular attendance.
  • Consider dusk till dawn lighting.
  • Consider a roof alarm or intruder alarm
  • Encourage wardens and local residents to make frequent visits (at irregular times).

Visit the Historic England website to find more information on preventative measures for a heritage site.


Chemical storage / Securing Fertilisers

  • Store fertilisers in a dedicated locked building or compound - Don't leave them on public view
  • Don't sell fertiliser unless you know the potential purchaser to be a legitimate user.
  • Record all deliveries and usage and carry out regular stock taking.
  • Record manufacturers’ code numbers and detonation resistance test certificates: – you may be required to present them.
  • Always report a stock discrepancy or loss immediately.

Please visit the following website for for advice and guidance regarding the use, storage and purchase of fertilisers and fertiliser based products  www.secureyourfertiliser.gov.uk

The Health and Safety Executive can provide further advice on storage/transportation of fertilisers, particularly ammonium nitrate.

Fire prevention

  • Dispose of refuse regularly and safely.
  • Remove hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvesting and do not store it alongside other materials/vehicles.
  • Store petrol, diesel and other fuels in secure areas and always padlock storage tank outlets.
  • Seek further advice from your local fire service.

Tack security

  • Secure tack room windows on the inside with solid iron bars (not tubular steel).
  • Secure all doors with good quality locks; use bolts (not screws) on the hinges.
  • Mark your tack using an ultraviolet pen.
  • Display warning signage to deter thieves.
  • padlock gates with substantial padlocks and heavy duty chains.
  • Reverse top hinges on gates to prevent lifting.
  • Install security lights and an intruder alarm.

Illegal occupation

As a landowner it’s your responsibility to protect your land from unauthorised occupation. Making sure your premises and boundaries are secure will greatly reduce the risk of unauthorised occupation.

To help protect your land you could:

  • look closely at the perimeter to ensure it is as secure as possible
  • consider using large tree trunks, rocks, ditching and earth mounds around boundaries to

prevent access

  • restrict vehicle access by digging deep ditches
  • keep unused land maintained and free from litter and other waste

If your land does become illegally occupied, you can take proceedings to the county court to obtain a court order for the eviction of illegal occupants. Occupants who fail to comply with this notice by leaving the land as soon as reasonably possible are committing an offence.

Find out more about rural, heritage and wildlife crime by visiting the following websites:

                National Wildlife Crime Unit      Bat Conservation Trust     Kew Royal Botanical Gardens     Natural England      Environment Agency       RSPCA        RSPB

                Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime     Country Land and Business Association (CLA)   Historic England    National Rural Crime Network   Countryside Online

                Badger Trust    Countryside Alliance       Crown Prosecution Service     Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flauna and Flora (CITES)       

                                                                                                                         Wildlife Trusts