Police commissioner says ‘robust’ approach has seen numbers of unauthorised travelled encampments fall

Travellers set up camp on Dunmow's recreation ground in April. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Travellers set up camp on Dunmow's recreation ground in April. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

The county’s police, fire and crime commissioner says the number of unauthorised traveller encampments in Essex has fallen by more than a third so far this year.

Roger Hirst said a "consistent, robust" approach to dealing with unauthorised encampments had seen reported incidents fall from 74 between January 1 to May 15 last year, to 26 during the same period this year.

Mr Hirst said the number of encampments has been reducing since the introduction of Essex Police's Gypsy, Traveller and Rural Engagement Team (GTRET) and the establishment of the unauthorised encampment protocol in 2017.

Sergeant Paul Downes, who leads GTRET, said: "Whenever there is an unauthorised encampment in Essex, my team visits the site to engage with members of the group and make sure they are ok, as well checking on the welfare of any animals and checking any vehicles present.

"The majority of our engagements with the traveller community are positive, but sometimes it leads us to identify vehicles which have been previously stolen or ones which aren't road worthy.

"In these cases we've confiscated those vehicles.

"We will be stepping up this activity during the course of the summer and people should be aware that Essex is not a place where you can come and commit crime."

Most Read

GTRET officers routinely check vehicles and seizing those they find to be stolen.

This year the team have recovered 71 vehicles, a mixture of trailers, horse boxes, cars, chippers, tele handlers and caravans.

Some of these were due to violations of road traffic legislation, but most were stolen, police said.

Mr Hirst said: "Our GTRET officers are having a significant impact on reducing criminal activity in rural areas, which is one of the key priorities in my police and crime plan. It is a great result when we are able to return stolen vehicles to their rightful owners, but it is even better when we can stop these thefts in the first place. "Ensuring a consistent, robust approach is taken to unlawful encampments and the theft of vehicles, especially from rural communities, is helping to drive down criminal activity across the county as people intent on committing crime are thinking twice before coming to Essex."

The downward trend in the number of unauthorised encampments in Essex started in 2017 when there were 339 incidents. Last year this fell to 231. GTRET was formed in October 2017 and is made up of a sergeant, four PCs and one special constable.