Police and Crime Commissioner hopefuls on tackling dog theft

Recently a new police scheme has been set up to send pet owners information about dog thefts in their area.

Assistant chief constable Deb Smith told the BBC that the free alert system had been set up in response to public concern about dog theft.

We asked all six Police & Crime Commissioner candidates what they would do in office to tackle the crime.

Photos of all six PCC candidates l-r Liz Webster (Lib Dem), Jonathon Seed (Cons), Brig Oubridge (Greens), Mike Rees (Independent), Julian Malins QC (Reform UK), Junab Ali (Labour)

Photos of all six PCC candidates l-r Liz Webster (Lib Dem), Jonathon Seed (Cons), Brig Oubridge (Greens), Mike Rees (Independent), Julian Malins QC (Reform UK), Junab Ali (Labour)

Labour’s PCC hopeful, Junab Ali said: “Dog thefts have increased during lockdown and are currently treated as petty crime.

“That needs the law to be changed by central government. As PCC, I can and would ensure that pet theft is recorded in Wiltshire crime statistics as a specific crime so that the scale is known and resources can then be focused appropriately including, if necessary, appointing a specialist officer who can liaise with other forces especially where organised crime is or may be involved.

“We also need to help owners to protect their pets through educating them around keeping their pets secure and no unattended in gardens, ensuring they are microchipped and reporting suspicious activity as well as ensuring that pet theft, which leaves many families devastated, is actively investigated as with other crimes.”

Green candidate, Brig Oubridge said: “Wiltshire Police, like all police forces (and more than most) is under-resourced in terms of the jobs it has to do and therefore has to prioritise which crime reports it devotes resources to.

“Dog theft has been a growing crime in the past year and should be detectable if dogs are correctly micro-chipped.

“The PCC should be able to exert influence on the choice of priorities, and if elected I will investigate how much more could be done, including how well or badly resourced Wilts Police is in the technicalities of reading chips.”

Tory candidate, Jonathan Seed said that dog thefts are heart-wrenching and traumatic for owners.

“I will be ensuring the message continues to go out to the public that dog owners need to make sure they get their dogs chipped, remain vigilant and stay away from known trouble spots,” he added.

“ I want to make sure the chief constable’s focus on organised crime reflects the targeting of dog owners by gangs, and that the chief makes it a priority to ensure that local officers know and understand the anguish this type of crime causes.

“I want to see dog thieves caught and put before the courts and those who are convicted of such horrible crimes receive the sanction commensurate with the heartache this criminality causes.”

Julian Malins QC, who is representing Reform UK, said: “Virginia Bottomley was mad to abolish dog licences, which should be reintroduced immediately.

“This is an animal welfare issue as well as a crime issue.”

Independent candidate, Mike Rees said the increase in thefts is down to an increase in the value of dogs and the heightened demand during lockdown.

“Whilst operational response is the responsibility of the chief constable, I would hope that there is a dedicated SPOC within the force intelligence system collating offences within the force, liaising with other forces both regionally and nationally.

“This will hopefully identify criminal networks and individuals involved in such offences.

Each case should also receive an appropriate response with robust investigation strategies.

“This should be combined with information sharing and public awareness campaigns through social media and other forms of communication.”

Liz Webster, the Liberal Democrat candidate said: “I began campaigning about the rise in dog theft at the end of last year after noticing repeated reports in my local area.

“As a dog lover and owner, losing a dog is horrendous, but the anguish and heartache of dog theft is so damaging.

“To combat this issue, we need a specific officer to investigate dog thefts in Wiltshire, following in the footsteps of Nottinghamshire Police.

“And we need to focus on destroying the black market by catching thieves trying to sell on dogs and by educating the public with clear advice on best practices of pet purchasing.

“Residents have highlighted problems of reporting dog theft and we need to find solutions to ensuring reports are taken seriously and followed up.

“Nationally, dog theft needs to be registered as a specific crime. This is something I’ve been calling for and was one of the key messages from the DogZoom event I organised last month which was supported by Ricky Gervais, Sara Cox and Clare Balding.”

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