New wildlife crime reporting app launched

PAW crime app screen 2A new smartphone app has been launched by PAW Scotland to help the general public to record and report suspected wildlife crime in Scotland.

Using the free app, the public can complete an on-screen reporting form and can upload scenes of crime photos that are automatically tagged with a GPS reference. This information is then sent directly to Police Scotland via email.

The app was the brainchild of former Police Wildlife Crime Education Officer, Andy Turner, who is now employed as Wildlife Crime Officer for SNH. Here is a short video of Andy explaining how to report wildlife crime and his introduction to the new app.

The government has issued a press release about the new app here.

It is good to see anything that raises awareness of wildlife crime in Scotland, although just how effective this new app will be remains to be seen; rural mobile phone coverage is not brilliant in large parts of Scotland – will this app work if you’re standing on a remote grouse moor looking at a poisoned eagle?

There are other concerns, too. Comments made in the government’s press release suggest that the reporting of wildlife crime is a problem in Scotland. That is simply not the case. Many people are reporting suspected incidents – it’s the police follow-up that is lacking in many areas. Not everywhere – there are some excellent Police Wildlife Crime Officers who can be relied upon to follow up every single reported incident – but it’s a bit of a lottery – if you happen to be in an area where (a) there isn’t a Police WCO or (b) there is a Police WCO but they are unreliable, then reporting an incident via this app won’t make a blind bit of difference.

A more serious concern as far as we’re concerned is the exclusion of other investigatory agencies. In his video, Andy makes a point of saying that Police Scotland is the investigatory agency for wildlife crime – and blatantly ignores the statutory reporting status of the SSPCA. This app will not forward reported incident details to other investigatory agencies such as the SSPCA or the RSPB – the information just goes directly to Police Scotland. That is certainly not ideal. By excluding the other agencies, there won’t be anybody to follow up / chase up Police Scotland to ensure that the incident is actually being investigated. As we’ve seen time and time again, when Police Scotland are left to their own devices then many reported incidents just get buried /hidden / unpublicised / forgotten.

We would encourage anybody who is reporting a suspected wildlife crime to the police, either using the app or not, to also notify at least one of these two agencies at the same time (if not before!) –

RSPB Scotland Investigations: 0131-317-4100

SSPCA 24hr hotline: 03000-999-999

If you haven’t already added these numbers to your phone, now is the time to do it.

Whilst Andy Turner deserves credit for helping to raise awareness at least, we doubt very much whether the use of this new app will improve prosecution or conviction rates. Do you think we would have seen a prosecution or conviction for the Leadhills poison baits had the incident been reported via this app? Of course not! Although had the poisoned baits been reported via this app we the general public would still be very much in the dark about that crime because Police Scotland have refused to issue a press statement about it, eight months after the discovery. If they are being provided exclusive information via this app then we can expect to see much more of the same. That, for us, is unacceptable.

2 thoughts on “New wildlife crime reporting app launched”

  1. In the don’ts column does it say Don’t tell the RSPB, the SSPCA, the local or national press or anyone else, looks well in the year of natural Scotland instead of making a proper stance against the untouchables, they bring out a bloody smart phone app! They’re having a laugh, I bet you cant get on that website now there’ll be that many trying to download it

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