A HI-TECH crime-fighting tool is being developed by a rural community.
Esclusham residents have come together to create software which might be a national first.
The map will include layers of information such as who owns land, what permissions and restrictions apply to that land, the proper location and numbers of livestock, and whom to contact in an emergency.
It will also include the location of things such as private cameras and public rights of way – anything that would be useful for police to know when on location to help detect and deal with crime.
Community councillor Amanda Richards said the idea came about a few months ago at a monthly community police meeting.
It was driven by residents and landowners themselves – many, like Cllr Richards, members of neighbourhood watch.
“We’re always trying to come up with positive ideas to tackle the problems specific to rural crime,” she said.
“If something happens out in the ‘sticks’, it can be very difficult to describe where you are.
“First, there’s the problem of finding the place and then knowing what to do or who to contact when you’re there.”
She said neighbours would not necessarily know to whom land or livestock belonged, and if someone were suspected of poaching or trespassing, it could be hard to determine whether they had right of way.
“First of all we thought it would be good to have a map for police to use of who owned what land,” said Cllr Richards.
That got extended and we’ve got a few technical people on our team who have volunteered to put it together.”
The map, it is hoped, will tackle problems as diverse as illegal hunting, equipment theft, stolen cars being dumped, escaped animals and sheep worrying.
In theory police had access to most of the information on the map, she said, but not all in one place and immediately accessible.
Importantly, she said, not even the police had an immediate way to tie a piece of land to the landowner.
For the project the team has relied on getting as many landowners involved as possible.
“We’ve collated all this information; it’s all been developed over the last few months and put it in digital form so it can be at the fingertips of the police,” Cllr Richards said.
“The fact that it’s in digital format means you can update it quickly.”
She added: “It’s still at the trial phase. It will be presented to our local PCSO at the next police meeting.”
The first version of the map will be piloted in February with one portable computer tablet. The map will cover the Esclusham and Ponciau areas.
If promising, the community would look at raising funds for more tablets, both for headquarters and officers out in the field.
“If it works, maybe other people will adopt it,” she said.
“Half the time problems could be solved so much quicker if only somebody knew who to call.”