A TOP Australian cop is heading for North Wales to see how a pioneering police task force has set the benchmark of success for cutting rural crime.
Since it was set up 18 months at the request of Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick, the North Wales Rural Crime Team has slashed crime in the countryside by two-thirds.
It has effectively homed in on offences as diverse as livestock rustling, theft of farm machinery and badger digging.
Word of its successes has spread across the UK and abroad and one of the overseas forces now showing a keen interest in learning more about the way the team operates is the one which polices the Australian state of Victoria.
This summer the man who heads up an equivalent rural crime-busting operation there is jetting over 10,000 miles to spend two days shadowing the crack North Wales squad around its patch.
The visitor from Down Under is Superintendent Craig Gillard who, with over 30 years’ of policing experience, is in charge of a 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 has been researching international best practice in the investigation and prevention of rural crime and has 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 a fact-finding trip across globe, visiting the UK and the USA this summer.
He will be in Britain during July when he will spend two days with the North Wales Rural Crime Team.
Set up in September 2013 at the instigation of North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick, the cutting edge team has since proved a huge hit with the agricultural community for the way it has cut down dramatically on the rural crime which had been plaguing them.
Mr Roddick said: “Interest in our team is growing all the time. First it was from police forces in Wales, then it was England and now it’s the world.
“We are delighted to welcome our visitor from Australia who has read and heard about our highly successful Rural Crime and is coming over to see for himself the model we have created.
“We too can benefit from this visit. There is much good – even best – practice in the state of Victoria for us here in North Wales to learn from.”
Sergeant Rob Taylor, who heads the unit which has officers in the force’s West, Central and East divisions, was equally delighted to extend a warm Welsh welcome to Supt Gillard.
Sgt Taylor said: “He will be spending two days with myself and other members of the team, on July 26 and 27, and will have the opportunity to see exactly how we operate and the methods we use which make us unique amongst other police forces.
“One of the things we will explain to him is our highly successful predictive analysis, which allows us to work precisely how and where crimes are going to occur.
“This means that every 24 hours we carefully look at all the calls that come through to us related to rural and farm crime so that we can put together of picture of when and where various types of crime occur.
“We can also predict the busiest time of the year for farm crimes which, actually, is in July.”
Sgt Taylor added: “Ours is the only team of this kind in Wales and we have set the benchmark of success for combating rural crime.
“We are getting lots of calls from other police forces in the UK who are interested in finding out how we do things.
“We are also getting enquiries from forces abroad, including now the one in Victoria, Australia.
“We’re getting more popular on social media and we currently have Twitter followers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand – in fact, we’ve gained 200 new followers in just one week recently.
“I think it’s fantastic that Supt Gillard is going to spend some time with us and I also see his visit as a great opportunity to find out what we can learn from him.”
Supt Gillard said: “I will be travelling to both UK and USA and will meet with a variety of police services, universities and partner agencies to better understand and observe the methodologies employed to address rural crime.
“My research has led me to consider strategies and practices employed by North Wales Police, who have kindly agreed to meet with me and share their experiences and learnings.
“My tour will include visits to Metropolitan, Hampshire, Dyfed Powys, Cumbria and Licolnshire police services together with police agencies in California, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi in USA.
“Victoria Police, and the rural communities we serve, are presently challenged with increases in the theft of livestock, machinery, equipment and fuel and chemicals, animal activism and organised crime involvement.”
He added: “In 2010 we identified the need to ensure we were better meeting the needs of rural communities and we established a group of police to become Agricultural Liaison Officers (AGLO’s).
“They act as a point of contact for farmers and others in the rural community to discuss crime issues and they also work proactively in their areas to reduce the risk of rural crime occurring.
“In the last year we have successfully investigated a number of matters and provided positive outcomes to rural farming communities.
“We cannot simply police our way through these issues without ongoing stakeholder support, especially in terms of improving our intelligence around illegal activity in rural communities.”
Mr Roddick added: “Our Rural Crime Team, which was the first of its kind in Wales and England, has achieved a great deal in the very short time of its existence.
“Its success has been about listening to farmers and members of the agricultural community, with whom we have an excellent working partnership.
“They told us there was a case for improving the way we did things and we listened to them.
“Even though the countryside is sparsely populated it contributes an enormous amount to the Welsh economy.”