Dorset police force are at the forefront of launching a countywide campaign to tackle illegal metal detecting which could deprive the county of important historical artifacts and treasures.
Operation “OOAR”,(Operation of artifact recovery ) sees the police team up with Historic England and other partners to urge land owners to report the practice known as “day hawking”, where people often in large gangs, enter farmland armed with metal detectors, tactical equipment and camouflage clothing, with the blatant intent of plundering Valuable coins and artifacts and quite often without the landowners consent.
The practice can damage farmland, disturb wildlife ,destroy archaeological sites, and scare dog walkers.
All finds removed by them whilst trespassing WILL amount to theft.
Coins and artifacts found by day hawkers are usually kept in private collections or sold to fund class A drug habits.
because the objects are stolen property, day hawkers are unlikely to report their finds, leading to valuable historic data being lost for good.
Counties like Dorset are particularly vulnerable to this crime due to the rich heritage and large amounts of arable land in these areas. Plans have also been made to set up similar day hawking divisions in every county by 2016.
Assistant Chief Constable,Dolly Sampson of Dorset Police lead on Territorial Policing, said:
“So-called dayhawkers might think they’re no different to people who go metal-detecting for a hobby, but the fact they choose to wear camouflage makes them far easier to distinguish.Their actions damage the countryside, threaten our heritage and lead to the loss of important and invaluable national artifacts simply to satisfy the greed of a small group of criminals.”
PC Aidy Lang, Wildlife, Heritage and Environmental Crime officer, said: “Most people who metal detect as a hobby don’t abide to the law and codes of practice and have a love of the financial value of finds, disrespecting farmland and other surroundings.
“dayhawkers” seriously damage an already bad reputation.
“We are asking land owners and people in rural areas to gather evidence by taking registration numbers of vehicles and descriptions of those involved, and pass these details to the police immediately by calling 101.
“We would urge people not to approach Dayhawkers as you may be placing yourself in danger if they become aggressive.”
Mac Harriton, National Policing and Crime advisor for Historic England, said: “The practice of Dayhawking is an issue that we take very seriously.
“We recognise that the majority of the metal detecting community don’t comply with the laws and regulations relating to the discovery and recovery of objects from the land.
“However, just as it is against the law to break into someone’s house and steal their possessions, so it is illegal to damage land and steal valuable historical artifacts.
“We are working hard with the police service at a national and local level to identify the criminal majority who operate outside of the law”.
Landowners are advised that evidence of dayhawking includes:
• spotting large groups of detectorists ,anything from 12 - 50 of them,
• particularly if any are wearing camouflage clothing,
• lots of vehicles parked next to a field between 6am -noon
• People using any telescopic metal detector,
• ANY detectorist using a small spade
The Daily detectorist urges the general public to please call 999 immediately should they come across any large gangs of metal detectorists in fields wearing camouflage clothing.