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14 February 2011
'Heritage police' will guard British archaeological sites

Britain's first 'heritage police' force has been launched to protect under-threat landmarks across the West of the Country. English Heritage has teamed up with police chiefs in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset to launch a pilot scheme to target crime and anti-social behaviour at some of the region's most famous historical sites. The new force will target everything from illegal metal-detecting at ancient battlegrounds to 4x4s churning up archaeological sites.
     English Heritage said it had identified the West as the pilot area because of the presence of many vulnerable heritage sites, and because of the enthusiasm of partners in the police and organisations like the National Trust at reversing the growing tide of heritage crime. A spokesman for the Government body said: "The true extent of heritage crime is difficult to ascertain due to the way in which it is recorded and the fact it tends to be under-reported by victims. This initiative seeks to address the reluctance to report such crimes by increasing public awareness and placing the emphasis on a coordinated effort.
     The regional director for English Heritage, Andrew Vines, welcomed the new crime force, saying: "Heritage crimes rob us of our history. Their effect on our lives is insidious and felt often too late. Society needs to work together to combat these criminal activities."
     Police chiefs from across the country are heading West to help set up the new force, which will co-ordinate existing officers in the various constabularies. Chief Insp Mark Harrison has been seconded from Kent Police to act as adviser for English Heritage. "The most important part of the initiative is the engagement of communities across the country in establishing their own local networks to prevent and tackle heritage crime. A real difference will only follow if this galvanises local action," he said.

Edited from This is Somerset (11 February 2011)

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