South Lincolnshire farmers have given a cautious welcome to a new rural crime policing package just two months before the traditional start of the hare coursing season.
Just over 1,000 hare coursing cases were reported across South Holland and Boston in 2016-17, according to figures from Lincolnshire Police obtained after a Freedom of Information request from the Lincolnshire Free Press.
But it represents more than one and a half times the amount reported in 2014-15, prompting police in the county to act with a £750,000 Rural Community Safety Strategy shared with farmers at an NFU meeting near Boston last Tuesday.
One farmer, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said: “The new strategy is a welcome initiative although, at this stage, it is only words.
“As ever, the police will be judged on action and the sentiment that the new Chief Constable is demonstrating is pleasing and encouraging.
“With the help and cooperation of farmers, one can hope that results will be more positive.”
The strategy incluess a pledge for more contact between police, farmers and landowners, as well as the use of nine 4x4 vehicles, a drone and Automatic Number Plate Recognition Network to trace criminals targeting South Holland
It also included coooperation with the the Crown Prosecution Service and magistrates to make penalties for rural criminals stiffer after a hare courser found hiding in Deeping St Nicholas in February was given total fines and costs of just £315 last month.
The farmer said: “There is no real understanding of the severity of rural crime and the penalties handed down to hare coursers are still totally inadequate.
“It is an insult to farmers, witnesses and the police.”