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Knowledge is power in the fight against illegal operators

I lead the data team within the National Enforcement Service at the Environment Agency, which is responsible for pulling together information from a wide range of sources across the organisation to produce reports that help shape and deliver our priorities.

Armed with a number of different data and intelligence tools, our teams across England target those who operate illegally within the waste industry. This activity can be anything from simple persistent breaches at permitted sites through to out-and-out illegal activity.

My team of data analysts are specialists in their field, skilled at collating data and identifying trends and issues.

Reports from our enforcement systems are used across the organisation to plan and target our operational activities, identify emerging issues and provide a level of assurance that we are targeting priority illegal activity through to Defra.

Our enforcement action against environmental offenders are published on our website.

Illegal waste sites often get reported to us as an environmental incident. Our role in environmental incidents is to prevent and mitigate through pollution prevention measures, bring into compliance through permitting, monitoring and taking appropriate enforcement action.

Details of sites reported to us are stored on a national database. This includes the nature and type of site, the operational area, the environmental offences committed and the action that has been taken following the offence.

This enables us, our professional partners and Defra to build a picture of hotspots across the country, identify trends of illegal waste activity and assess whether someone is operating alone or as part of a wider network.

The data builds the organisation’s corporate memory on the activities we have undertaken, the types of offending and its geographical spread. It builds an invaluable intelligence picture which plays a vital part in tackling environmental crime, allowing the organisation to make an informed judgement on the delivery of our priorities and deployment of the resource available to us.

However, this journey is not possible without the reporting of environment incidents in the first place. Knowledge is indeed power, so we encourage those within the waste industry to work with us to stamp out waste crime, by telling us what they know about illegal operations.

We appreciate this can often be uncomfortable, so there is the option to report details anonymously via our partner, Crimestoppers either at our reporting website or by calling 0800 555 111.

Andy MurcottNational Enforcement Services, Environment Agency

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