Police have disbanded a specialist unit dedicated to catching hare coursers but say their neighbourhood teams will focus on this rural crime and maintain “zero tolerance”.
The unit was set up in September 2012 as part of Operation Galileo and almost 350 people were prosecuted up to August 2014.
The step was praised by World Animal Protection UK, whose campaigns manager Alyx Elliott described Lincolnshire Police as “paving the way” for other forces to follow.
Farmers also praised the unit for tackling the gangs who plague Lincolnshire’s fields with dogs that tear hares to pieces.
Sutton Bridge farmer and parish councillor Michael Booth said: “It’s sad news to me. I had commended that unit because I thought they had done a fantastic job. They certainly reduced the number of hare coursers around here and when I used to ring up their response was fairly quick.”
Post-harvest is a peak time for hare coursing and Coun Booth is praying the loss of specialist police won’t turn back the clock to three years ago when hare coursers were hitting South Holland almost every weekend.
... we have decided to expand the policing response to encompass the entirety of the neighbourhood policing teams which already service the areas blighted by hare coursing.Chief Supt Stewart Brinn
Chief Supt Stewart Brinn says Lincolnshire Police has been in close contact with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to develop its response to hare coursing in 2015.
He said: “While there has been a dedicated team of officers in the past, the truth is that the size of the county works against enforcement by a small number of officers.
“As a result we have decided to expand the policing response to encompass the entirety of the neighbourhood policing teams which already service the areas blighted by hare coursing.
“They will be better able to get to incidents quickly and they will have local knowledge of the area and the community. This is a different approach but our aim remains the same: zero tolerance.
“We promote Lincolnshire as a no-go area for coursers. Where we have the power to do so we will seize dogs and vehicles.
“The key is getting in early to exclude people from the county.”