Close pass operations, microchipping events and looking at securely marking saddles are just some of the plans on the agenda for an officer who has taken over the reins on equine crime.
Police Constable Katherine Harvey has recently been chosen to lead Nottinghamshire Police’s HorseWatch scheme, and in her role she will be working closely with the equestrian community to identify and resolve a variety of issues.
The scheme, which was introduced in 2017, provides the equestrian community with a platform to open up conversation about issues in their areas. The HorseWatch team has a heavy presence on social media, in particular Facebook, and whilst it is not a reporting tool for incidents, the engagement that officers have received through the scheme has been really useful in helping them to understand some of the wider issues that the community wants them to tackle.
PC Harvey said: “The scheme is really about listening to the equestrian communities’ concerns and doing what we can do address and tackle those as effectively as possible.
“We look at a number of issues that can affect the equestrian community, such as illegal off-road biking, thefts of trailers and, in particular, ensuring the safety of horse riders and drivers on the roads together.
“Partnership work is also a significant part of what we do, joining together with councils around the ‘Dead Slow’ campaign, which works to educate drivers on passing horses wide and slow. This is especially important to us following the updates to the highway code, which now says drivers should pass horses at no more than 10mph.
“We’ve also spoken to people about livery yard standards and worked with the British Horse Society to offer advice as they conduct a lot of work around this and complete inspections. So, even though we can’t take reports of incidents through the HorseWatch page, we can gauge what the community is concerned about and put certain actions into place to proactively tackle this.”
The HorseWatch scheme gets the equestrian community to:
- Provide details of their usual riding areas and any ideas of concern in those areas.
- To be vigilant to evidence of criminal activity, antisocial behaviour or other issues of concern while on their regular hacks (i.e suspicious vehicles, fly-tipping etc)
- To share information with local neighbourhood policing teams
- To provide the police and relevant agencies with regular information and updates through agreed contact portals.
Katherine has been a keen equestrian since she was a child and continues to ride regularly outside of her busy policing role as a neighbourhood policing officer in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, where she has been for two years.
The 23-year-old, who is also a dedicated wildlife officer for Nottinghamshire Police, is hoping to reach equestrians right across the county through a variety of social media engagement opportunities and in-person events.
“Since taking over as the lead in January, I’ve been really keen to make the Facebook page more active and encouraging for people to engage with us, even if it’s just small things like getting people with horses to share pictures of their beloved four-legged friends in the comments,” she added.
“Creating this community and building this trust so that people feel confident to share their concerns to us, or report incidents through our control room or website, is so important and it is how we know where to focus our efforts.
“In the future, we’re looking to arrange some pass wide and slow days, advising drivers on how to pass horses safely and stopping those who don’t in order to give them advice.
“We are also looking at microchipping days as this is such an important way that we are able to confirm the identity of a horse if it has been stolen. Likewise, we are also looking into how we can security mark saddles, bridles and other tack. These are expensive and clearly owners don’t want it being left heavily marked, but this also means it can be targeted by thieves, so we want to work together to find the best way to track tack without it being very visible.
“We’re looking forward to getting out in the community and working proactively to keep the county the safe and enjoyable place that it is for horse lovers, horse owners and horse riders alike, and we would ask anyone with concerns or ideas to get in touch with us via our social media pages.”
Chief Inspector Heather Maelor is the rural crime lead for Nottinghamshire Police and said: “The HorseWatch scheme has been very successful in allowing us to engage with the equestrian community. We, as officers, are able to learn a lot from this information and use it to develop operations and other planned proactive work around horses and crime involving the equestrian community.
“Horse-related crime and rural crime as a whole has a huge impact on victims, often disrupting or taking away their livelihood or at the very least their ability to do something they are passionate about. This is why we have schemes like this – to really be able to open up discussions, listen to the community and work proactively to prevent these types of crimes from happening.
“It is fantastic to see the enthusiasm that Katherine is bringing to the role and we are grateful to everyone who has interacted with the pages and given us information since January when the page was ‘relaunched’.”
“I would highly encourage people to take up the opportunities Katherine is looking to provide, whether this is over social media or in-person events, and the HorseWatch team will always be urging anyone with concerns or information to come forward to them.”
The Nottinghamshire Police HorseWatch scheme had a makeover in January 2022 following the announcement of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Rural Crime Plan, and it is as a result of this that PC Harvey took over the reins as the new lead officer for the group.
Anyone with equestrian related concerns or information can engage with Katherine and the team over the dedicated Nottinghamshire Police HorseWatch Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NottsPoliceHorseWatch