The fight against gangs who hunt hares with dogs in South Holland has struck a major blow after confirmation that reported cases were down by 300 this season.
Results for Operation Galileo, a six-month campaign targeting hare coursing gangs operating in the county, show the number of incidents dealt with by police were the lowest since records began in 2008-09.
Between September 2012 and mid-March 2013, the height of the hair coursing season, almost 190 prosecutions have been brought and another 90 people warned about their activities.
Fines, driving bans and exclusion orders from Lincolnshire have been handed down by the courts, while police have also seized vehicles and recovered dogs on animal welfare grounds.
Inspector Andy Ham, head of Operation Galileo, said: “Officially, the operation has finished as the period between mid-March and the summer is traditionally when the number of hare coursing incidents come down.
“But two of the officers on our team will still have wildlife crime as part of their remit under a wider portfolio of rural crime.
“Our analysis confirms there was a marked decrease in the number of incidents compared to the same period over the last few years.
“The number of reported incidents throughout the county between September 2012 and mid-March 2013 currently stands at 810, a significant decrease on the total of around 1,100 last season and the lowest total since we started recording hare coursing cases in 2008-09.”
Operation Galileo saw a dedicated team of six police officers act on intelligence supplied by farmers, landowners and the general public, with support from the NFU in Lincolnshire.
Insp Ham said: “The good work done by Operation Galileo is down to a combination of having a dedicated team of officers alongside the input and cooperation of the public in reporting incidents and providing statements.
“It’s had a significant impact on the hare coursing community but we’re not naive in thinking that there won’t be reports of hair coursing in the near future.
“It remains a force priority and any reports of hare coursing will continue to be dealt with robustly.”