Covert operation by Nottinghamshire Police sets sights on Newark and Balderton wildlife shootings
A youth aiming a slingshot at songbirds was among those caught by undercover officers as part of action to combat bird killings.
Nottinghamshire Police has received six reports of dead birds found by the public around Newark and Balderton, all of which had injuries consistent with catapults. The latest was an owl found at Sconce and Devon Park on Monday.
There was also concern youths were being abusive to members of the public.
Anthony Nicholson, 82, who lives near Balderton Lake, said: "My wife and I have had to bury so much of the wildlife. Only the other week, we found two carp and a wild Canada goose, which appeared to have been barbecued.
"It happens all the time. The other day a lady came to us crying profusely. She asked us to come and have a look at what she'd found and we went down and found the big white duck — which is a bird that people were absolutely besotted with — with its neck snapped.
"There was also a Canada goose that had had its chest split open and numerous mallard ducks with pellets in the heads. A couple of mallards were suspected to have been tortured and burned. It's disgraceful.
"We don't want offenders to just get a slap on the wrist, we want them to prosecuted for their actions. There doesn't seem to be any parental guidance of these youngsters. I just wish things were simpler for them and they were able to be entertained by the youth clubs that we used to go to where you'd play snooker and tennis and just talk to each other."
The six incidents related to Bowbridge Road, Balderton Lake, Cleveland Square, Barnbygate and Clay Lane areas during the evening.
Newark policing team set up an operation involving plain-clothed officers working with uniformed officers, the police quad bike and community protection officers from the district council, who conducted patrols and took part in targeted days of action.
During the first event, a teenager, 15, was spotted using a catapult on the Sustrans track, Catkin Way, Balderton, and was just about to fire it at some songbirds. He was detained and the catapult was seized. He will now be dealt with by the Youth Justice Service for a number of wildlife offences.
Three youths were also detained in the Blue Lake area of Barnbygate after plain-clothed officers witnessed them chasing ducks and geese and behaving anti-socially. They were all spoken with.
A suspected stolen off-road motorbike was also seized after being stopped by the police quadbike being ridden off-road in the Quarry Lane area.
During further police activity, three youths, two aged 14 and one 15, were detained following a foot chase after officers received a report of nuisance behaviour in the Balderton Lake area. All were searched and catapults and ball bearings seized before being taken home to parents.
Another group was spoken with about wildlife concerns after being spotted acting suspiciously and then trying to outrun the police quadbike.
Patrolling community support officers also detained three youths who ran away from cops attending a report of men firing a catapult in Hawtonville. The Operation Reacher team was also in attendance and a number of ball bearings were seized.
Mr Nicholson said there has been various problems over the past ten years, including criminal damage to his property, drug taking and wildlife killings. He stated events got so bad he was advised to keep an incident book of his own and regularly had visits from local police.
"We have gone through a really horrific time and there were many occasions where my wife suggested to sell up and go but we live in a beautiful area and it doesn't seem fair," said Mr Nicholson.
Neighbourhood Sergeant Rob Harrison said: "We've seen some really concerning behaviour aimed out our local wildlife and it's beyond belief that people seem intent on deliberately setting out to harm other living creatures.
"Lots of our residents have spoken about their concerns and find it distressing to come across animals that have been deliberately killed.
"It's completely unacceptable behaviour and thankfully our undercover operation has been ousting a number of those responsible.
"Alongside proactive enforcement, we are also planning an educational package with our partners with a view to visiting local schools to try and understand why youngsters are doing this and to explain to them how heartless it is and what the consequences might be.
"We also ask parents to speak with their children and make sure they know that this is unacceptable and if caught using a slingshot in a public place, face arrest and prosecution.
"People can also expect to see a more high profile police presence in our wildlife zones and rest assured that we will continue our undercover work and operations to catch those responsible."
Leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council David Lloyd said: “We were only too happy to support our police colleagues with patrols after some of the appalling reports of wildlife crime. It is an offence under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to kill animals and we are urging parents, guardians and teachers to look and listen out for behaviour like this.
"There are very few legitimate reasons for carrying a catapult but causing unnecessary harm to innocent animals is most certainly not one of them. I’m delighted the patrols have caught some of those responsible, but rest assured this behaviour will not be tolerated and this enforcement activity will continue.
"People are asked to call Nottinghamshire Police if they see anything suspicious in wildlife areas or have any concerns.”
Recently-elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire Caroline Henry said: “I have spoken to residents and landowners across Nottinghamshire’s rural communities and I’ve heard about the problems that make their lives a living nightmare. This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable and I’m pleased to see such a robust response to these shocking attacks on our wildlife.
“It’s really important that our rural communities know the police will be there when they need them and trust officers to deliver an effective response, such as this, to their problems.”
Anyone with information can call 101, or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.