A team of police officers and analysts dedicated to tackling rural crime is the highlight of a new community safety strategy for Lincolnshire.
Chief Constable Bill Skelly and Marc Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, unveiled their Rural Community Safety Strategy for the county at a meeting of farmers and landowners near Boston yesterday.
Elements of the strategy, including the purchase of nine 4x4 vehicles and a drone fitted with a thermal imaging camera, were previously announced by Mr Jones earlier this month.
But the creation of an “all year round” unit of specially trained police and civilian staff to track down criminals targeting rural communities marks both a return and an expansion of the hare coursing-led Operation Galileo campaign.
Mr Jones said: “The Rural Community Safety Strategy is a priority in my Community Safety, Policing and Criminal Justice Plan for Lincolnshire because the way to tackle hare coursing is to stop it from happening.
“So we’re putting together a proper group of people who know the law and are passionate about tackling hare coursing and other forms of rural crime.
This is an all-year round team of rural specialists to target people who prey on our rural communities, whether through wildlife and heritage crime, hare coursing or thefts of farm machineryMarc Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire
“This is an all-year round team of rural specialists to target people who prey on our rural communities, whether through wildlife and heritage crime, hare coursing or thefts of farm machinery.
“I honestly believe that no one officer can retain every aspect of the law in their head so when we tell them to tackle a hare coursing incident, is it surprising that they don’t know exactly what powers they can use under the Hunting Act 2004?”
Figures obtained by the Lincolnshire Free Press under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 showed that reported hare coursing in Lincolnshire had fallen by 276 from 2,241 cases in 2015-16 to 1,965 in 2016-17.
But compared to 2014-15, the last year when the old Operation Galileo team was in force before it was disbanded in September 2015, there were twice as many reports of hare coursing in 2016-17 than the 985 two years ago.
Mr Skelly said: “Lincolnshire remains one of the safest counties in the country, but we need to work closer with the rural community to ensure people never feel isolated or vulnerable.
“I have a duty to make sure every resident receives such protection and this is my commitment to those living in the countryside.
“We are creating a Rural Advisory Group which residents can be a part of and through which we will benefit from better communication with them.
“Crimes in our countryside are not invisible and will not go unnoticed or undetected.”