A top cop from Australia has been picking up tips from rural crime-busters in North Wales.
Superintendent Craig Gillard from the state of Victoria came on a two-day fact-finding mission with counterparts from the pioneering Rural Crime Team that was set up at the request of North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick.
Since it was established two years ago, the team has slashed rural crime by two thirds, homing in on offences as diverse as livestock rustling, theft of farm machinery and badger digging.
News of their success reached Supt Gillard Down Under and he was so impressed he wanted to come and find out about the secrets of their success.
Supt Gillard has just spent some time shadowing North Wales team members around their patch and looking closely at the way they work and also popped in to meet Mr Roddick.
According to Supt Gillard, the Rural Crime Team has become a benchmark for success.
He was delighted to have had the opportunity to observe their techniques at close quarters hosted by the officer in charge, Sergeant Rob Taylor.
He said: “I spent a whole day with Rob and other members of his team and attended a number of calls with them.
“One of these was a case in which three cows died as a result of what was believed to be illegally dumped vegetation in a farmer’s field in Conwy County. The team immediately began enquiries and an investigation.
“I was also able to visit the headquarters of Natural Resources Wales at Bangor where Rob has one of his team embedded in the office.
“Rob and I had plenty of discussions about how our respective teams operate in North Wales and Victoria, which were particularly interesting.
“The visit to North Wales has provided me with a really good platform for considering some of the ways the team here operates and how we might implement some of its ideas back home in Victoria.
“For instance, I am very impressed with the structure the North Wales team has in place and how it has become extremely well connected with the stakeholders, such as the farming communities and unions, with which it works. That was a real highlight for me.”
Supt Gillard added: “The North Wales team is very well regarded for the work it does and it’s quite clear that it has had some really good successes.
“I was welcomed with open arms throughout my visit and it has been a very worthwhile experience for me.”
Back home in Victoria Supt Gillard, with over 30 years’ of policing experience, leads his own team of more than 40 officers dedicated to tackling farm crime across the vast state.
In the past year alone they have notched up a number of successes in livestock theft, animal activism and wool deceptions.
Supt Gillard is currently researching international best practice in the investigation and prevention of rural crime and was recently been awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to study the latest developments in combating rural crime.
This has allowed him set out on his international fact-finding trip, which began with visits to California, Missouri and Louisiana in The United States and continued with calls on rural policing teams in Hampshire and Dyfed Powys before he arrived in North Wales.
His host, Sgt Rob Taylor, was equally impressed with the way the visit went.
He said: “For me this has been a unique insight into the policing practices of a force on the other side of the world.
“It’s been a pleasure to have Craig accompanying myself and other members of the team on a number of investigations.
“We’ve been able to swap our experiences of policing a rural beat.
“Some of the things he told me about the way they do things in Victoria are very interesting and may well influence the way we do things in North Wales.”
Sgt Taylor added: “Word of what we’ve achieved with the team has been spreading and we’re now getting about three calls a week from other forces in the UK wanting to know how we do things.
“Craig’s visit is the first visitor we’ve had from overseas and we hope to arrange many more like it in the future.
“These visits are so important because we can learn things from one another.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick, who had discussions with Supt Gillard on rural policing, said: “The fact that Craig has been to visit North Wales Police is a statement in itself about what our force has achieved in terms of policing our rural areas, which are vast.
“That statement is that North Wales is going about things in the right way and also in a novel way which others can emulate and adopt.
“We have seen that many police forces in England and Wales have been looking at the Rural Crime Team in North Wales and setting up models of a similar kind.
“It flatters us that we have had our visitor from Australia come to see us because he too, on behalf of the Victoria police force, is something to be seen and maybe something to emulate.”
North Wales’s Deputy Chief Constable, Gareth Pritchard, said: “The work of Rob and his team is well recognized and appreciated.
“They have changed the approach to rural crime and have also strengthened links with rural communities by improving their accessibility.
“We are delighted to have had this visit from our colleague in Australia.”
Set up in September 2013, the North Wales Rural Crime Team has since proved a huge hit with the agricultural community for the way it has cut down dramatically on the crime which had been plaguing them.
North Wales Police’s Rural Crime Team officers can be contacted via the North Wales Police system by dialling 101 or by e-mailing direct to the team Ruralcrimeteam@north-wales.police.uk