IN A bid to quash "costly" heritage crime, Wiltshire Police has launched a new initiative: Operation Apollo.

Headed up by the force's Rural Crime Team, the measures will focus on both preventing and enforcing crime to the county's heritage site, like the world renowned site at Stonehenge.

Launched this week Wiltshire Police says the initiative will tackle any crime that harms heritage assets and their settings.

The damage caused to heritage sites, it adds, can be very costly to repair.

A spokesperson added: "The loss of historical artefacts can stop future generations from being able to enjoy them, and can have an impact on tourism and the livelihoods of those who depend on them for an income."

Areas effected by heritage crimes include listed buildings, conservation areas, scheduled monuments, Word Heritage Sites and registered parks and gardens.

Rural Crime Officer PC Emily Thomas added: “Wiltshire is a predominantly rural county and therefore we are required to deal with some specific crime types that don't affect urban areas. Heritage crime is an excellent example of such a crime type.

“Operation Apollo will help us protect the wonderful history left by our ancestors in the many listed buildings and heritage sites around the county. We hope the public will help by acting as our eyes and ears and report all suspicious behaviour to the police by calling 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress.”

The force says that Operation Apollo will focus on:

  • Prevention – Offering the best crime prevention advice to landowners, asset owners and management organisations including steps they can take to help prevent thefts, anti-social behaviour, illegal metal detecting, criminal damage and illegal off roading
  • Intelligence – Improving the intelligence picture around heritage crimes by encouraging people to report all incidents, however small, to the police
  • Enforcement – With good intelligence the police can target potential offenders through rural operations
  • Reassurance – By working together with the public and taking a proactive approaching to tackling heritage crime we can hopefully reassure our rural communities by publicising action taken and results such as activity, arrests, seizures and convictions

Types of heritage crime include: Nighthawking (illegal metal detecting); treasure offences; criminal damage or arson; fly tipping; and theft.

If you see anyone committing heritage crime, call 101.