Who will be the next victim of equine crime?
This month as a result of more requests than I have ever had before, I am going to write some advice to horse owners and riders about ensuring you do not become the next victim of the current and growing equine crime wave hitting parts of the country.
A bit of background on me, Brian Seddon
As a retired police officer of thirty years experience I am well placed to give people advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of criminals in general, when you add my twenty five years service as a Mounted Officer I can also call upon a vast amount of knowledge of how equine criminals think and operate too. Unfortunately in the equine sector an awful lot of decent people do not encounter crime in the course of their lives and can therefore become vulnerable as a result. If my advice sounds very obvious remember not everybody thinks in the same way and if what I say makes the difference for one horse or one horse owner that is a success.
Don’t be complacent
Far too many times I go onto yards where I come across people I do not know and whilst some people can be polite or obviously ignorant very few people engage me in conversation. A lot can be learnt from speaking to someone. You might also see distinguishing marks on their face or something unusual about their teeth. These are things which are difficult for people to change. Head hair or facial hair can be changed easily, so get savvy and try to spot things that might link somebody to a description given by somebody else as another location as these equine thieves often checkout potential targets. Do not be confrontational be tactical, the person might be like me looking for a new client, but they could be checking the place out for future criminal activities, be that horse theft or equipment theft. By paying attention to detail you will achieve possibly two things. It will give your local police something solid to go on in their investigations. I am going to stick up for my ex colleagues here and say I am very confident that all police officers and community support officers want to catch criminals and they are disappointed when the information is vague at best and useless at worst. So help the police to help you and thwart criminals. Obviously registration plates can be an enormous help. Do try to get them right, it can make all the difference in identifying suspicious vehicles active in certain areas. Also if you see a vehicle and it is safe maybe have a quick look to see if the plates look temporary or false. An honest person would not have a problem with you looking closely at their plates, be discreet if you can.
Coded signs on posts or knots in horses’ manes
A lot has been said, posted and written about marks left by thieves such as knots in manes or codes written on fence posts, well you can more or less forget about this as it hardly ever happens. Also knots in horses’ manes and or tails can be caused by the blowing winds. Try not to rely on sketchy ways to play detective, stick to facts and always take the necessary precautions like security fencing, electric gate and CCTV if you think it is necessary. There some great products out there that give real time alerts on the activity of potential undesirables. One word of caution here though it is all very well getting an alert on your phone but if you are twenty miles away and the local police are short on recources the place may well still be attacked and property taken before anybody gets near to the yard. I advise people who do have this type of alert to maybe have a rota where one person who is nearby takes the responsibility to respond and get to yard being targeted as soon as possible. This is not vigilante behaviour it is just common sense.
Contact social media outlets
Social media has had some great success in making some stolen horses and horse transporters ‘too hot to handle’ I think this is a strong advantage we have in the horse world. We tend to look out for each other particularly at times of trouble. This networking is something which should be continued, maybe even regulated one day. Maybe a job for me when I don’t train horses and riders anymore. Do keep information factual and if possible non emotional, we all know how dreadful these crimes can leave us feeling but ranting can often waste time which can allow offenders time to escape.
Speak to the police, if nothing else this can give the authorities a pattern to work from.
In all instances of suspicious behaviour please contact your local police. I know some people have had negative experiences when calling out police officers but these are always resource issues. The thing that reporting suspicious advice always achieves is that it can be collated with other snippets of information, no matter how small, then these bits and pieces can often form an identifiable pattern which can only help catch the criminals if they persist or even move to another area but are clearly the same criminal team or solitary offender.
Listen to advice.
I do not want to encourage have a go heroes as that can result in tragedy and I see no need for anybody to actually physically engage with any suspicious people, that is the job for the Police. I hope I have given you some basic common sense ideas that help protect you, your property and your horses in the future.
Finally, do not become worried or paranoid as crime is relatively rare when counted as the number of victims per head of population but a little smart thinking can go a very long way. Sound security can come down to common sense and attention to details. It may be that your property does become too hot for someone to handle and you recover all or part of it later. The teamwork often generated by the sensible sharing of information, particularly on social media can be a real help with the recovery of stolen property especially after the actual theft has taken place. Stay safe all.