KINGMAN, Ariz. - In light of recent poaching activity, Arizona Game and Fish Department is offering the public advice in helping to catch those committing an illegal act.
There are important "shoulds" and "should nots" in trying to assist in apprehending criminals that can help lead officers to suspects involved in poaching wildlife. In the Kingman area alone, officers are investigating the suspected poaching of two mule deer and an elk.
There are times when there is a witness to the crime, others when information is overheard in conversation, and occasionally poaching crimes can be discovered on social networking internet sites.
"The desire of the public to help us catch violators is great. However, there are instances when those desires can actually hinder law enforcement efforts," said Ken Dinquel, Operation Game Thief (OGT) program manager in Phoenix.
Dinquel explained that those encountering violations sometimes inform the violator they will be calling the Operation Game Thief 24-hour hotline. A person may also attempt to gather information in a covert manner, but both actions can hinder and complicate an investigation
"At that point the violator vacates the scene before law enforcement personnel can arrive or a posting may be removed," Dinquel said. "A better approach is to avoid contact, leave the scene, and call the OGT hotline or submit information through the OGT website as soon as possible with details."
Dinquel added that license plate numbers, names (if known), vehicle descriptions, and GPS coordinates are all important pieces of information an officer can use.
Other potential mistakes include getting too close to the scene, examining the dead animal, or waiting too long to contact the OGT hotline.
"Additional footprints, tire tracks, and general disturbance of the area make an investigation difficult, if not impossible," Dinquel said. "If the death of a wild animal appears to be suspicious, people should assume a violation has occurred, contact OGT, and provide the location. Do not disturb the area around the site."
In addition, waiting a day or two to report a wildlife violation can lead to the loss of evidence due to scavengers or poor weather conditions like heavy rain.
"The sooner the better," Dinquel said. "Evidence is lost in a short period of time and the quicker we can get an officer to the scene, the better the chance of identifying a suspect and building a case."
However, Dinquel said, individuals should remember that confronting suspected violators in the backcountry could be dangerous.
"Approaching a violator is not the best course of action," Dinquel warned. "Allow trained law enforcement officers to handle such situations. Individuals should focus on being a good witness and never put themselves in harm's way."
Dinquel said information regarding potential criminal acts can also be obtained in a variety of other ways, including overhearing a poacher brag in a bar or restaurant, or posting information and photos on the internet.
"These types of reports, although not from the field, are also valuable," Dinquel said. "When you get enough pieces of information, you can complete the puzzle. But, again, do not inform the individual you will be filing a report."
Dinquel stressed the importance of using OGT as the only means for reporting potential violations. Confidentiality can't be offered when calling a regional office or headquarters.
Individuals witnessing or suspecting a violation should call OGT toll free, 24 hours a day at (800) 352-0700. Web submissions can be reported via the internet by going to www.azgfd.gov/thief. Callers will remain anonymous. The OGT program may pay rewards for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in a case.
Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
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Poachers are criminals. I will call as soon as I can. There are people watching all the time, behind every tree and rock. Then, jail time and a fine for them. Their guns and gun licenses confiscated for life. They are cowards.