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Researchers working with police force to combat fake pesticides

Posted 17 January 2014

Researchers at Harper Adams University are working with Thames Valley Police to investigate the distribution and use of fake pesticides through the Operation Silo campaign.

Work is currently taking place at the university in Shropshire, led by 52-year-old criminologist and postgraduate student, Chris Sambrook. The findings of this work hope to identify the risk factors associated with counterfeit pesticides and help the industry to reinforce their current counter-measures.

In particular, Thames Valley Police are investigating the distribution and use of illegal pesticides across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Chief Superintendent Gilbert Houalla, Head of Neighbourhood Policing and Partnerships, said: “The Health and Safety Executive has shown that this illegal activity is happening across the UK. Our job at the moment is to investigate to what level, if any, it is happening across the Thames Valley.

“We are working closely with the industry which is providing farmers and growers with advice to minimise the risks of buying and using illegal pesticides through the nationwide ‘Watch Out’ campaign.

“The campaign is also being supported by research conducted by Harper Adams University into the threat posed to UK agriculture by counterfeit pesticides.

“This type of crime is very difficult to identify and spot happening and receiving intelligence will be a vital part of our investigation, which is where members of the public and more importantly, members of the rural and farming community and pesticide industry will come in.”

Chris studied Agricultural Marketing and Business Administration at Harper Adams before completing a degree in Social Policy and a postgraduate degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

He is now working alongside Senior Lecturer, Dr Richard Byrne, whose expertise lies in food security issues and post-conflict rural development.

Together, they hope their findings will forge stronger links between police and industry intelligence gatherers and encourage the sharing of information to benefit all concerned.

Dr Byrne said: “We are delighted to be working with industry and police partners in this important area of rural crime as it poses a risk to the reputation of British agriculture.”

Chris from Oxford, said: “In the current economic climate, farmers may be tempted to look for alternative pesticide supply sources to save money.

“They could purchase counterfeit products without even knowing and this could have serious consequences ranging from loss of yield or even crop destruction, through to health and significant environmental damage.

“In a nutshell, we are trying to help protect a valuable and important industry by considering why we have escaped the worst of the problem up until now and then learn lessons from this as to how we can then protect ourselves in the future.

“Often, quite obscure factors can combine to trigger criminal activity, and once this happens it can very quickly become a serious problem. Prevention is always better than cure.
 
“By carrying out this research at Harper Adams I have a platform to raise awareness and hopefully make a difference.”

Please act on any suspicions you may have and call Thames Valley Police as soon as possible via the 24-hour non-emergency number 101 and mention ‘Operation Silo’. If you do not want to speak to police, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

For interviews with a Thames Valley Police spokesperson, please contact the Press Bureau 01865 846699.

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