Dorset Police is working with partners within the Urban Heath Partnership to introduce proactive patrols to prevent fire, vandalism and general anti-social behaviour.

The partnership, which is now in its 21st year, will see officers from Dorset Police proactively patrolling the area from the skies, working with colleagues from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Inspector Ady Thompson, of Poole Police, said: “As around a third of the heathland forms part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), drones cannot typically be flown over the area. However, with special permission from Natural England, officers will be able to use police drones to help reduce instances of anti-social behaviour.”

Dorset Police works with heath rangers, watch scheme members and the wider public to disrupt and prosecute those committing arson, poaching and traffic offences in heathland areas. Officers will also be targeting riders of mopeds and minimotos who are often causing damage to local habitats and disrupting walkers on the heaths.

Vikki Slade, Leader of BCP Council, said: “The support of Dorset Police to help safeguard, not only our rare heathlands and the wildlife that they support but also the public using these sites, has always been an essential piece of the jigsaw in our efforts to deter illegal activities. We value our heathlands greatly and we welcome this innovative initiative to help protect them.”

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Dorset Police was the first force in the country to recognise the huge potential of this technology by creating a dedicated drone unit.

“A drone is able to view a far larger area, far quicker than an officer on foot would be able to, so this is another excellent example of working in partnership to introduce innovative technology, making the best possible use of resources to protect our natural environment and keep people safe.”

Inspector Ady Thompson added: “Until now we’ve been conducting land based high-visibility patrols across the heaths, as well as running events in conjunction with the Urban Heath Partnership to prevent damage being caused to the local environment that can put lives in danger.

“However, with the development of drones as a new tool to use in the fight against crime, we hope this can help us make the heaths an even safer environment for everyone to enjoy.”

Dorset heaths are home to all six native reptiles: smooth snake, grass snake, adder, sand lizard, common lizard and slow worm – and for some of these, our heaths are the only remaining natural habitat in the UK.

If you see a crime in progress on a heathland, get to safety and contact the emergency services by calling 999.

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