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Wales’ four police forces have linked-up to drive down heritage crime with a stark warning — once it is gone it cannot be returned.

Heritage crime harms historic assets and sites, and includes illegal metal detecting, or nighthawking, and off-roading on such sites.

To try and prevent the further loss of important pieces of heritage Dyfed-Powys Police, South Wales Police, Gwent Police and North Wales Police are launching Op Heritage Cymru on 21 June 2022.

The initiative is the first of its kind in the UK and is aimed at raising awareness and preventing heritage crime across Wales.

Inspector Reuben Palin, from Dyfed-Powys Police said:

'People are rightly proud of their heritage but unfortunately there is a minority that don’t give it the respect it deserves.

'Heritage crime is a serious issue that can have a serious negative effect on our communities.

'Our heritage and the small pieces of history that are broken down or lost to heritage crime, can never be replaced, so we want to make people think about their actions and discourage anyone from doing it.'

Police teams will be working with Cadw, Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, National Parks, National Trust, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, archaeological trusts and various volunteers across the sector to work towards a greater understanding of heritage crime. 

To coincide with the launch, police cadets across Wales are being trained in heritage crime, along with training Rural Crime and Neighbourhood Policing teams.

Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Constable, Dr Richard Lewis, said:

'Our heritage is what makes us who we are so it is vital that we protect these landmarks and landscapes for future generations.

'It may seem like small crimes to those involved but it is not. Anything that is taken or damaged in the process of heritage crime is irreplaceable. So, once they are gone they are lost forever.

'As police forces we are showing our commitment to this issue so we hope the public will support us by being our eyes and ears and reporting it to us when they see people committing heritage crimes.'

Heritage crime is any unlawful activity which harms historic assets including buildings, monuments, parks, gardens and landscapes.

Some of these assets are protected by specific criminal offences but heritage crime often takes the form of ‘general’ offences such as theft, criminal damage, arson, unlawful salvage of shipwrecks and anti-social behaviour which are equally damaging to historic assets and interfere with the public’s understanding and enjoyment of them.

Metal detecting, commonly known as nighthawking, is the illegal search for, and removal of, antiquities from the ground using metal detectors, without the permission of the landowners, or on prohibited land such as Scheduled Monuments. Nighthawking is therefore theft.

If you are concerned about crime affecting historic buildings or monuments or other sites in Wales, whether generally or in relation to a particular place, the information below provides advice on what is being done about the problem and what action you can take yourself. 

If you are aware of a crime currently taking place, please telephone the police immediately on 999.

If you are concerned that a recent incident has taken place which has damaged a historic asset, please call 101 to report the incident to the police. Alternatively, you will be able to report it via your local force’s website.

Please quote “Op Heritage Cymru” when reporting.

To pass on information about criminal activity and remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or by visiting

Become a heritage protector

(A resource for Key Stage 2 and 3 learners).