2012 wildlife crime conference: Ruaraidh Nicolson (ACPOS)

This is blog number three in our series looking at the presentations made at the recent 2012 police wildlife crime conference. This time we’ll hear from Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, Ruaraidh Nicolson, who is also the new lead on wildlife crime at ACPOS [Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland]. For more info on Ruaraidh, see here.

Ruaraidh Nicolson (ACPOS)

Minister, Chief Constable, ladies and gentleman, I’m delighted to welcome you to the 19th Scottish police wildlife crime conference. I suppose I should firstly mention, er, the fantastic setting here and we all come back here on a very, very regular basis and all police officers actually get trained here, its of particular relevance with its beautiful surroundings and ready access to so many diverse habitats which benefit our wildlife. What better place then for a conference such as this. An environment which, as of 2008, Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned report has shown has a value of over £17 billion to the Scottish economy, and which employs one in seven of all full-time workers in Scotland. My previous chief officer colleagues who have opened these conferences have done so from their position of representing ACPOS from the operational policing business area. However, recognition that wildlife crime impacts seriously on Scotland’s valuable natural heritage and that it is probably linkaged to serious organised crime groups has influenced to move to where it now rightly sits, and that’s within crime business area, and that’s actually where I come in to all this; I’m the secretary for crime business area and as the ACPOS lead now, volunteered as Nevin said, on wildlife crime, er, I am delighted to open this important conference today.

ACPOS crime business area is committed to impacting on crime affecting the environment and has incorporated criminal investigation and environmental crime in to one specific portfolio area, and of course this is underpinned by all six of our ACPOS guiding principles: leadership, partnerships, customer focus, excellence, learning, and diversity. These principles are what our business in tackling wildlife crime are built upon, and indeed each are equally relevant to achieving the successful outcomes which our country expects. The clear benefits to an intelligence-led approach to addressing criminality are well established. This involves linking the sourcing and development of intelligence to tried and tested policing and partnership methods, to impact on operational activity, to disrupting criminality and ultimately to changing behaviour, which will be the important part of the work that we’re doing.

The investigation and disruption of all aspects of wildlife crime fits very well within this successful model. However, to ensure further success in such activity we must continue to stimulate and maintain the submission of high quality information. Without information on the people responsible, criminal methods, locations of interest, and activities known to criminals involved in damaging our natural environment, they are on the front foot and we are not. That’s something that I’m not prepared to accept.

We must explore and develop new sources of intelligence. The role of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime, in providing such intelligence, cannot be overstated. Every piece of information is crucial, no matter how small that might be. Our experience tells us that the development of intelligence is like building a jigsaw: start at the corners and work your way into the middle, but every piece is very, very important to the overall picture of what we’re doing.

We must progress the development of the national intelligence model and the Scottish intelligence database. We live and work in times of austerity and the public expects police and partners to operate efficiently. But they also rightly expect that we also operate effectively. By use of the national intelligence model and the Scottish intelligence database we are well placed to have the right people doing the right things at the right time in the right way. This is no more than good business sense and it is what the public expect, but it’s also importantly what our environment deserves.

We must encourage the increased use of tasking and coordinating to focus on intelligence-driven work, linking partners effectively results in the best use of resources, together with the right skills and the right powers. This is not just about police; it’s about every person in this room today and beyond, so you all have a part to play in what we’re actually trying to achieve here.

We must further develop memoranda of understanding with Partnership Against Wildlife Crime partners and with pertinent agencies to assist in the sharing of appropriate information and intelligence. We need to continue to formalise our information sharing, help share our assets and continue to build our relationships and trust. A critical aspect of this intelligence-led approach is that success is best achieved when close and effective partnerships are forged and developed across the spectrum of those individuals and bodies that have an interest in the crimes being perpetrated. The Partnership Against Wildlife Crime provides an excellent example of this being applied and I am confident that we have made significant steps to address wildlife and environmental crime, and I know that the benefits are there for all to see, and there was reporting on Radio Scotland this morning in terms of some of the work that’s already been done. However, and this is what today’s about, there is much, much, much more to be done.

Of course I can’t speak today without mentioning police reform. While this is undoubtedly the single biggest organisational challenge undertaken in the history of Scottish policing, it brings with it great opportunities to exploit the collective expertise, resources and passion that currently exists across eight territorial force areas. Real law enforcement impact towards wildlife crime will only be achieved if we fully harness the full extent of the problem. We need to demonstrate to those involved in damaging our wildlife and our environment that we know who they are, and that we will make use of the same policing assets that we are applying to other investigations, detection and disruption of all forms of criminality. The message to people involved in such crime is simple: Scotland relishes its wildlife and environment and damage to these will not be tolerated.

Modern criminal investigation thrives on the benefits that intelligence brings. 2011 saw re-focus of the Scottish wildlife crime tactical tasking and coordinating forum. Identification of those responsible for damaging our wildlife and environment is at the heart of this. But there’s a need to drive activity at most local policing levels to make sure that enforcement and prevention activities are locally relevant and impacting. But also in order that local police officers grow their own knowledge of those people within their communities who are intent on harming their environment. And of course vice versa. We want local criminals to grow their knowledge that local police officers have them in their sights.

If we can continue to grow our approach to addressing local issues relating to wildlife and environmental crime, this will help us develop much broader knowledge of those individuals that operate within the wider national and international arena. We will target criminals involved in wildlife and environmental crime from every angle possible, locally, nationally and internationally. But the truly effective approach for Scotland must start with locally relevant and effective police and partnership activity. There should be no gaps in commitment, whether this is from policing, partner agencies or the public, and I entrust you to broaden their complete contempt of wildlife and environmental crime within your community and to take personal responsibility to drive forward exposure of those committing such crime in order that enforcement organisations can most effectively disrupt those behaviours.

So my message for the forthcoming year is clear. Scottish policing will continue to actively pursue those involved in damaging our wildlife and the environment. We will work closer with partners to be more effective in painting the intelligence picture. We will develop and broaden awareness among our staff about crime that affects our wildlife and the environment. We will make sure that the policing mechanisms in place to target other forms of criminality are equally applied to those issues affecting our natural environment. And finally we will use our intelligence regarding other forms of criminality as a vehicle to help us disrupt and detect those harming our wildlife, environment, and we will use our intelligence regarding those involved in wildlife and environmental crime to disrupt and detect those involved in other forms of crime”.

[Well done Ruaraidh for managing to deliver an understandable presentation. Yes, it was still littered with bureaucratic jargon but at least it was put together coherently, and in amongst all that business-speak was a message of clear intent. Can that good intent be turned into tangible results? That remains to be seen but he should be given the chance to have a go; at least he wasn’t suggesting national police operations with gamekeepers!]

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