19 July: Cracking Down on Illegal Encampments & Horse-Trap Racing
16 July 2021
Since I was elected as Police Commissioner on 6 May, I have worked with Hampshire Police to prevent the illegal racing of horse and traps on public roads across Hampshire. These races are highly lucrative, with large sums of money being made from illegal gambling and horses being raced in poor conditions.
They are not only dangerous but create fear and disturbance in local communities across the county who have to contend not only with roads being closed but potentially with the impact of having a large number of travellers camping illegally in their communities. One such event took place in May with over 500 travellers closing a road which prevented people leaving their homes or being able to access them.
Hampshire Constabulary ran Operation Gossamer over two weekends in June to prevent an illegal race event planned for the A33 between Winchester and Basingstoke. Hundreds of people were expected to attend and there were genuine fears that the road network would once again be impacted, public safety could be compromised and of animal welfare issues. The police supported me in taking these threats seriously and to their credit stood up a successful operation. The Constabulary put a significant number of officers on the operation and as a consequence, the races did not go ahead and people were kept safe.
The police have a duty to enforce the law and to stand up for the interests of law abiding taxpayers. This means taking a stand against such high profile and blatant law breaking. They did this comprehensively with Op Gossamer.
Earlier in the summer, we had something similar at the Wickham Horse Fair. That event has been running since the 13th century and is an established part of rural life. However COVID restrictions meant that it could not go ahead as normal, but businesses and local residents were still effected.
As Police and Crime Commissioner I want to see a greater priority given to anti-social behaviour and to general lawlessness. Dealing fairly with illegal horse races and travel encampments is very much a part of that.