DRONES, off-road vehicles and plain-clothed officers all took part in a police operation aimed at reducing the risk of open fires around the Bourne Valley.
The multi-agency operation took place on Friday afternoon in the area around Poole, as part of a day of action to tackle those looking to start fires or carry out antisocial behaviour.
Officers worked with partners to gather intelligence and engage with those who may be looking to set fires or carry out antisocial behaviour in a culmination of activity during half term.
During the operation, a 14-year-old boy was stopped after reportedly being observed taking suspected drugs.
He initially ran from officers and concealed suspected drug paraphernalia in long grass. Officers caught up with him and found him in possession of suspected class B drugs and an offensive weapon.
In a separate incident, a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy were detained for a search. Officers found suspected class B drugs on the girl, as well as drug paraphernalia and items that could be used as a weapon.
The 14-year-old boy and the 15-year-old girl will be invited to the station for a voluntary attendance interview to deal with the matters.
Inspector Nick Lee, of Poole Police said: “It is vitally important we act against those who wish to target our green spaces and heathlands.
“We work with partners as well as our safer schools team to find sustainable long-term solutions to these issues including education and diversion schemes.
“The activity today was part of our ongoing work to tackle the issue where officers from Poole Neighbourhood Policing Team alongside Safer Schools and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service carried out targeted visits to those who we know may be involved in starting fires.
“Our message to the public is clear – please talk to us and tell us what is happening. It is only with your information and intelligence that we can prevent and respond to these issues affecting our open spaces which we know is a key issue for our communities.”
Organisations represented at the day of action included Neighbourhood Policing and the Drones Team from Dorset Police, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire & Rescue (DWFRS), BCP Council’s Anti-social Behaviour Team and Urban Heath Rangers, the Urban Heath Partnership, as well as elected representatives from BCP Council.
Councillor Millie Earl, deputy leader for BCP Council who attended the day, said: “It is essential that we do all we can to protect our natural habitats in the BCP area. Residents have raised concerns around anti-social behaviour at Bourne Valley, which is why this day of action has proven to be a great example of multi-agency partners coming together to make a positive difference.
“I’m hopeful this work will reassure our residents that we’ve heard their concerns, particularly around deliberate heathland fires and the use of scrambler bikes at this site.
“This day of action is the start of greater patrols and stronger visibility to try and deter a small number of individuals from mistreating, and potentially destroying, this special heathland.”
Group manager Stuart Gillion, from DWFRS, said: “Since the beginning of this year we’ve seen a 400 per cent increase in the number of fires in this area compared to the same period last year and this partnership working is vital in tackling the issue.
“Each fire has the potential to cause devastation, particularly on our heathlands and to those residents who back onto these open spaces.
“We want residents to think about the consequences of their actions and enjoy Dorset responsibly, bringing a picnic rather than having a BBQ.”
Paul Attwell, team manager of the Urban Heaths Partnership, added: “We really appreciate the efforts of the partners involved to protect our precious heathlands across Dorset.
“Sadly any fire is devastating to these habitats which can take up to 25 years to recover. Across the world, heathlands are rarer than rainforests and therefore it is vital we do all we can to protect them.”
People are urged to call 999 if they see a crime is in progress or could pose a danger to life. If in a remote location or unknown area, people are told to consider getting a ‘What3Words’ location to assist emergency services in dealing with the incident.