ROGER Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, has welcomed the reduction in unauthorised encampments which have plummeted by 35 per cent so far this year.
The number of unauthorised encampments has been reducing since the introduction of Essex Police’s Gypsy, Traveller and Rural Engagement Team (GTRET) and the establishment of the Unauthorised Encampment Protocol in 2017.
Between January 1st and May 15th 2019 there were 26 encampments in the county, compared to 74 in the same period last year.
Officers from the GTRET are undertaking robust, consistent activity across the county in line with a protocol established in 2017 and which included input from Councils across the county.
Sergeant Paul Downes, who leads the Gypsy, Traveller and Rural Engagement Team, said:
“There are many members of the traveller community who visit our county and do not carry out any criminal activity or anti-social behaviour.
“Whenever there is an unauthorised encampment in Essex, my team visits the site to engage with members of the group and make sure they are ok, as well checking on the welfare of any animals and checking any vehicles present.
“The majority of our engagements with the traveller community are positive, but sometimes it leads us to identify vehicles which have been previously stolen or ones which aren’t road worthy.
“In these cases we’ve confiscated those vehicles.
“We will be stepping up this activity during the course of the summer and people should be aware that Essex is not a place where you can come and commit crime.
“We are here to engage with rural communities and when illegal activity is happening we will take a robust approach.”
GTRET officers routinely check vehicles and seizing those they find to be stolen.
This robust, consistent activity across the county is sending a clear message that Essex is not a place where people can get away with committing crime.
This year the team have recovered 71 vehicles, a mixture of trailers, horse boxes, cars, chippers, tele handlers and caravans.
Some of these were due to violations of road traffic legislation, but most were stolen.
Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst said:
“Our GTRET officers are having a significant impact on reducing criminal activity in rural areas, which is one of the key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan. It is a great result when we are able to return stolen vehicles to their rightful owners, but it is even better when we can stop these thefts in the first place. Ensuring a consistent, robust approach is taken to unlawful encampments and the theft of vehicles, especially from rural communities, is helping to drive down criminal activity across the county as people intent on committing crime are thinking twice before coming to Essex.”
The downward trend in the number of unauthorised encampments in Essex started since 2017 when there were 339. Last year this fell to 231. GTRET was formed in October 2017 to help deliver the Rural Crime Strategy which was developed by Essex Police, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex and Essex Rural Partnership. The team consist of a sergeant, four PCs and one Special Constable.