Treejacking is Real in Kent

Dear Editor,

I read with interest Nick Pearce’s article on Treejacking in Devon this week. He asks whether it is a genuine phenomenon.

Well, I can tell you that Treejacking is far from unheard of here in Kent. Look here, here, here and here.

There are also cases reported in Devon. Here is the relevant link to one.  

Any natural resource that attains a value is up for grabs in Kent. “Rural crime gangs” view woodland as just another resource to earn money. “Rural Crime Gangs” is our preferred term for Travellers as it is the only way of describing tinkers without being in-turn described as a racist and written off as a toffee-nosed bigot by authorities who prefer to trash the credibility of rural residents rather than address the real problem. This is because it is easier for them and does not force them to put careers on the line by ‘attacking’ travellers.

It is a strange world we inhabit when criminal gangs have full protection from the law because of the authorities’ fear of speaking out or tackling such people. It is reflected in the courts locally as well. Andrew Harper – anyone remember him? Look at how his killers were dealt with by the Police and courts.

Impressing upon authorities that this is organised crime run by travellers is a gargantuan task. In Kent (and I am sure elsewhere) Irish traveller gangs deal drugs in the nightclubs, they import the drugs. They are growing drugs for sale – often grown under “contract” by third parties.

I know one land and property owner that I speak to regularly who regards cannabis factories almost as an occupational hazard. When investigating the latest event, Police implied that as he had “had his cut” – i.e. the rent of the building had been paid – they didn’t expect him to be too worried. As he said to me at the time, “and one throw-away remark turned me into a hostile witness”.

They import weapons and steal legally held guns. I had one friend who had his entire gun case ripped off the wall. It was the only thing taken from his house. He knew who did it and informed the police. They did nothing. He even found out where the guns were being held. He told the police. Nothing. Eventually he contacted the thieves and told them he wanted his customised 12 bore back, as he had had it built for himself. He offered to pay £2000 (not far off the price of a new one) – they refused, as they had a buyer who would pay £5000! It is believed that most of the guns that were taken in this case, including centre fire rifles, ended up on the continent.

They steal agricultural, industrial and other machinery, agricultural chemicals (really!) for export order. They run protection rackets – on one occasion being bested by an Albanian car-washing outfit in Headcorn. This was amusing as the story goes that the Albanians turned up to the travellers’ site with meat cleavers and really went to town.

They run modern day slavery operations – specifically in the tarmacking and block-paving sectors that they dominate. It is usually done with vulnerable adults who are “stored” in steel shipping containers on travellers’ sites or properties that the travellers own in towns and villages.

Yes, they own houses. Lots of them. While they often live in caravans.

Why is that? How often are travellers’ sites raided? They are working with Romanian, Albanian and Bulgarian crime organisations, and rumours circulate that these continental gangs have legitimised some of their operations that source labour for industries requiring large, skilled, temporary workforces – in spite of the employers and Government agencies working hard to ensure this cannot happen. Indeed were it not for the Conservative Government’s moral cowardice in unpicking the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme in 2013 because “immigration” had become a hot potato; UK employers and migrant workers would be far better protected. The Government would have had far better oversight than they subsequently did. The old system really worked. Workers were counted in and counted out. They had to stay within the post they had been allocated to and could not just “disappear” into another sector. Amusingly, the minister responsible for axing the scheme (Mark Harper) was subsequently forced to resign, having unwittingly employed a cleaner who had not got the necessary licences to work in the UK.

All of this and nobody in authority wants to know. Not because they are especially corrupt. Generally because it is career killing cancer to raise the subject. Nobody wants to touch it. Those that do within the police are generally felt to be a threat to senior police pension plans and find themselves re-posted.

Have you seen a policeman lately? Usually soft-handed, shaggy-bearded and with slightly suspect tattoos. They are more interested in hate crimes than tackling the hard men. They are not equipped to deal with serious criminals. If they try, they are actively undermined by the CPS. When the CPS are actually awake or incapable of dodging their responsibilities with obfuscation and statistical probabilities as to why a prosecution is not in the public interest, the courts fail them. Those police or county councillors that are interested are not supported.

We have a Kent police “Rural Task Force”. Jolly good on WhatsApp. Very popular with rural residents. Not many arrests for reasons discussed above. 12 policemen and women – all dedicated and serious about their work. They are rarely on duty together. That is for the whole of Kent, assuming they have not been assigned en bloc to traffic duties on the M20. We had one good policeman a while ago who had to retire aged 50. still fitter and more capable than most of his colleagues in the county. He was regarded as a trouble maker by his chain of command. He could not afford to continue policework as he would have lost so much of his pension through tax he would have been paying to work. In the last year of his service he arrested more rural criminals than the entire Rural Task Force arrested in the following 2 years.

Seriously. Why are you surprised at people stealing trees? Come to Kent, it is one of the least offensive of the things our criminals do locally! I could sign you up to the Kent Police rural crime WhatsApp groups. That would give you a taste of crimes on a daily basis. Silence the telephone notifications though… the ruddy thing is burping and farting 10 times an hour!

Keep exposing the truth,