The horse riders who have teamed up with police to tackle crime in Wiltshire

  • Watch Caron Bell's report

Wiltshire Police is recruiting volunteer horse riders to spot signs of rural crime in the county's remote areas.

In one of the first schemes of its type, horse owners are being trained to look for, and report, evidence of crimes like hare coursing and badger baiting, all while out riding.

Wiltshire is a large and predominately rural county, yet it has just four officers in its rural crime squad.

While that number is set to be increased to seven in 2022/23, a new mounted style of Neighbourhood Watch has been launched.

The horse rider volunteer scheme started in December 2021 and 45 riders have already trained up.

"Criminals need to know that we're 'on it'," said 79-year-old volunteer Stephanie Berwick.

"We're aware that stuff is going on and we've got our eyes open. We're now in a position to be able report it."

Unlike most force areas, Wiltshire saw levels of rural crime rise during the pandemic, especially countryside vandalism and livestock worrying.

The aim of this scheme is to give police extra eyes and ears in the county's most remote corners.

Horse riders routinely exercise their horses over land which would be inaccessible to a police car - and typically can see above hedges.

The criminal activity the riders are trained to look for include

  • Hare coursing

  • Badger baiting

  • Raptor persecution

  • Vandalism, especially to ancient monuments

  • Theft of agricultural equipment

  • Livestock worrying

Horse owners wanting to volunteer to be part of the scheme should contact the Citizens in Policing or Rural Crime Teams or complete the application form by using the link Wiltshire Horse Rider Volunteer (WHRV) (