THREE county police forces took part in an undercover operation in a bid to tackle cross-border crime across the south of England.

Officers from Dorset Police, Wiltshire Police and Hampshire Police were joined by Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Dave Sidwick, as part of an operation created by the National Wildlife Crime Unit that aims to disrupt poaching activity.

Operation Galileo saw Dorset Police team up with neighbouring forces in Wiltshire and allowed officers to share intelligence relating to known offenders and suspicious vehicles ahead of carrying out patrols in North Dorset, East Dorset and Purbecks.

Sergeant Natalie Skinner, of Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team, said: “We support Op Galileo each year and, while we didn’t catch any poachers on this occasion, we were able to engage with our rural communities and gathered valuable intelligence which will be used to prevent rural crime and assist us in upcoming operations.

“As a team, we also stopped 20 vehicles and issued two drivers with tickets – one for driving without insurance and another for driving with a dangerous load.

“Although no poachers were identified during the operation, our high visibility patrols would have sent a clear message to offenders who put rural communities and livestock at risk.

“Dorset Police has seen a 20 per cent reduction in the number of reported poaching offences this year, and I believe that success is largely down to the efforts of our dedicated team; partnership working, as well as the range of tactics we’ve used to target known offenders and to prevent poaching.

“These figures are proof that what we’re doing is working, and we’re committed to continuing to reduce rural crime in Dorset.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick said: “It was great to see Dorset Police Rural Crime Team working together with our neighbouring forces to disrupt those that commit deplorable crimes such as poaching and hare coursing.

“The crimes being committed by these offenders are truly sickening and although no offenders were caught on this occasion the intelligence gathered will go on to support future operations.

“I am pleased to see that there has been a 20 per cent reduction in reported poaching offences and, having spoken to local farmers, I know that this reduction is very much welcomed.

“I hope this operation sends a clear message that Dorset Police takes all rural crime, including wildlife crime, seriously. I am committed to ensuring that cross-border, partnership working will continue and grow as we strive to make Dorset the safest county.”

The operation took place on February 22.