Agency turns to ‘CSI tactics’ to catch criminals

He may not have Horatio Caine's sunglasses or Gil Grissom's forensic expertise, but the new chairman of the Environment Agency has pledged to use "CSI techniques" to crackdown on waste criminals.

Lord Chris Smith said the agency will use some of the latest sophisticated techniques such as forensics, handwriting experts and crime mapping to stop illegal waste activities.

It is part of a renewed effort by the Environment Agency to stamp out the problem of unlicensed waste operators.

It follows a report published by the agency in July which showed the waste sector was lagging far behind the other industries regulated by the Environment Agency.

More than half of the illegal sites operating in England and Wales during 2007-08 were closed down or brought into legal status by the agency, but Lord Smith said efforts would be stepped up.

“Operating illegal waste sites is a criminal offence and their activities can result in serious pollution of our environment,” he said.

“Not only that, but they also pose a risk to wildlife and people, spoil the quality of life of those living nearby and undermine legitimate waste management businesses.”

The agency’s focus has now shifted to tackling sites that pose a particularly high risk to the environment.

But agency chiefs said they face many challenges, such as the costly and complex process of enforcement, the continual opening of new illegal sites. It can also involve dealing with organised criminals who are often involved in other serious crimes.

These problems were shown by the three-year operation launched to prosecute two men behind a highly-organised illegal waste operation in the south east (see related story).

Lord Smith said bodies such as local authorities, the police and the DVLA had to play a role in ensuring rules on waste were followed, and waste producers had a responsibility to make sure they sent waste to registered carriers.

He added: “The message from the Environment Agency is clear – there is no hiding place for illegal waste operators.

“Our enforcement officers are watching and we will take every step possible to protect the environment and bring offenders to justice.”

Kate Martin

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