Night vision technology is often thought of in association with military uses, but it’s been often finding applications in police operations as well. Since crime doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, it’s helpful in certain cases for officers to have access to night vision goggles in order to make their jobs safer and more efficient. For one area in rural England, it helped tremendously during a recent large-scale police crackdown on crime.
The Cotswolds is the name for an area in south central England that encompasses parts of six different counties, including Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. By all accounts, it seems like a pretty pleasant place to live, with beautiful cottage style homes and old-world architecture scattered across beautiful green fields. There is, however, a big problem with poaching in this pastoral dreamland. Poachers will trespass on to people’s land and use their own dogs to take down deer and other game that they can sell for the meat.
As lead officer PC Ashley Weller said, “Poaching is a crime on many accounts. Crops are often damaged, livestock can be scared and in some cases land owners are threatened.” Further to that, he added, “For us it is more than anti-social behaviour although poaching is sometimes viewed as this. There are tangible links between poaching and organized crime groups. Those who are making profit from poaching and livestock theft are making landowners’ lives a misery.”
So back in February, the police forces of Gloucestershire and Thames Valley teamed up with local help from gamekeepers and landowners for a five-night operation to flush out some of these poachers. Officers and citizens camped out and hid with night vision goggles to look for any suspicious activity in what was called Operation Firefly. There were also officers driving around in specialist 4x4s and a helicopter monitoring the area.
The results ended up being pretty satisfactory. Four suspicious vehicles were driven out of the area and one was seized. Additionally, valuable information about the poaching activities was gleaned, which the police are now pursuing with assistance from the National Wildlife Crime Agency. This was actually the second Operation Firefly, with the first taking place last October and resulting in some arrests and the seizure of weapons and poaching equipment.
Weller implied that Operation Firefly might just become a regular occurrence in the Cotswolds. He also stated that that the police force is making a concerted effort to get to the bottom of this by tracking down where the poached meat is being stored, butchered and sold after initially being taken.
All in all, it seems like a good community event. Individuals get to camp out in the fields, hang out with friends, do some night-time surveillance and take down some criminals all in the name of community spirit.