Socially distant but always on duty - using technology to catch waste criminals

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is using high-tech surveillance techniques to tackle unscrupulous waste operators seeking to take advantage of the Coronavirus crisis.

Government guidelines on social distancing mean NRW officers are unable to use their usual investigation methods. As such, they have turned to sophisticated drone technology and satellite cameras to help in the tracking of waste criminals.

The new approach includes:

  •  Using drone footage to investigate illegal waste disposal.
  • Participating and benefiting from research and tools created in partnership with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency through the Life SMART Waste Project.
  • Trialling the use of satellite imagery obtained from the European Space Agency, as well as high resolution commercial satellite data.

 Adrian Evans, head of NRW’s Tackling Waste Crime initiative, explained:

“Social distancing is impacting on how companies supplying goods and services operate and waste criminals are taking advantage of this.

“We have had to modify our ways of working by developing technological solutions to support our work and ensure that waste operators comply with environmental regulations.

“This technology will ensure the environment of Wales is protected for the people who live here and for legitimate waste operators who abide by the rules and work in a responsible manner.

”Those hoping to exploit the lockdown restrictions to commit waste crime should think again. We have the capability and technology to continue to identify and pursue those that flout the law.”

This type of surveillance is already underway in south east Wales, where NRW and Gwent Police are using drones to investigate illegal activity.

PC Matt Andrews, who, as part of Gwent Police’s Rural Crime team, is the embedded officer with NRW and assists the South East Wales Operations team in tackling all types of illegal activity, said:

“During lockdown our waste team continues to have close communications with permitted waste sites, but we’ve also strived to find alternative ways to having boots on the ground.

“Drone work has helped us investigate illegal activity in remote locations while adhering to the social distancing guidelines.

“For example, the imagery can be used to identify the extent of illegal tipping on land which would normally take two NRW waste officers to physically investigate.”

The public and businesses can help by reporting any suspected illegal waste activity on our hotline 0300 065 3000.

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