DORSET Police have joined forces with the Urban Heaths Partnership to crack down on crime on the county's heathland.

Officers are working alongside the partner agencies, including Dorset Fire and Rescue Service and Dorset Wildlife Trust, to cut down on the level of anti-social behaviour, theft and fire damage on heathlands.

Residents are being reminded to be alert and proactive in reporting any suspicious behaviour, fires, or other damage caused by accident, recklessness or arson.

This year marks the 15th year of Operation Heathland, running from March 31 and September 28, 2014, which last year saw the number of heath fires fall from 163 in 2011, to 111 in 2013.

Dorset Police also says that the total amount of heathland damaged by fire was significantly reduced from 71.1 hectares in 2011, to 12.8 hectares in 2013.

Police Sergeant Adrian Thompson, said: “Operation Heathland will see high visibility police patrols across the heathland areas in Poole, Bournemouth, East Dorset and Purbeck to reduce instances of malicious fires, damage from fire, damage from vehicles, theft of items from the heath and wildlife offences.

He added: “Anyone caught starting a fire on a heath will be prosecuted. Fires on heathlands not only cause irreparable damage to endangered plants and animals, but they also put people living nearby in danger.”

Gaynor Mant, community safety education officer at Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I cannot stress enough how important it is to take extra care when enjoying our heaths and open areas.

“If you are a smoker, extinguish them fully before disposing of them. Never ever just throw them lit. The result could be 50 or 100 firefighters tackling the subsequent blaze.”

Members of the community who could help protect Dorset's heathland by signing up to a Heath Watch in their area, should call 01202 642787, email or visit the Community Heath Watch - Dorset Facebook page.

Anyone with information about suspicious activity or fires on the heath should call 999 in an emergency or Dorset Police's non-urgent number on 101.