The annual police operation against hare coursing appears to be working, with new figures showing that reports across South Holland and Boston are down by a quarter.
Figures from Lincolnshire Police revealed that 752 reports of hare coursing were made in South Holland and Boston between September 2017 and March 2018, considered the traditional season for the illegal activity.
This compares to 1,009 reports in 2016-17 and 1,186 in 2015-16, falls of 25 per cent and 36.5 per cent respectively.
A South Holland farmer, who asked not be named for fear of reprisals, said: “After a few years of harassing the police, literally telling them what a bad job they have been doing, they have finally got themselves geared up to try and tackle the hare coursers.
“Operation Galileo has been a success and we have had less hare coursing in Lincolnshire this winter because the police have tried to stop these people.
“The response times have been quicker, the police on the ground have had more equipment, several cars have been crushed, several dogs confiscated and men have been arrested.
The results announced this week show that these efforts are having an impact and we feel that the police are doing everything they can to tackle this insidious crimeDanny O’Shea, county adviser for NFU Holland (Lincolnshire)
“But most of the professional hare coursers have got away by not stopping when ordered to and using number plates that the police have not been able to trace.
“However, they have been frightened out of Lincolnshire but if the police slacken off, I am sure the hare coursers will be back.”
Police also revealed that across Lincolnshire, hare coursing reports fell by exactly 600, or 30.5 per cent, from 1,965 in 2016-17 to 1,365 in 2017-18.
However, South Holland is still the hare coursing capital of Lincolnshire, with 45 per cent incidents having taken place here, compared to just 13 per cent in the Boston borough area and ten per cent in South Kesteven (including the Deepings and Bourne).
Danny O’Shea, county adviser for NFU Holland (Lincolnshire), said: “We have been working closely with police both ahead of, and during, the hare coursing season to ensure the issues farmers face, as a consequence of this crime, are fully understood.
“The results announced this week show that these efforts are having an impact and we feel that the police are doing everything they can to tackle this insidious crime, as well as the associated issues that it brings.
“The police have stepped up to the challenge that hare coursing in Lincolnshire presents and we look forward to continuing to work with Lincolnshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones, over the coming months.”
Off-road, all-terrain vehicles, thermal imaging technology, 32 days of action and a drone were just two parts of a £750,000 strategy for rural policing in Lincolnshire.
The Rural Community Safety Strategy saw 45 suspected hare coursers arrested or summoned to court, 58 men ordered out of the county and 76 dogs seized during the 2017-18 period where 3,700 police office hours were worked on days of action alone.
Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones said: “The fight against hare coursing is a crucial part of our drive to keep rural communities safe.
“The gangs that commit these crimes are often responsible for a raft of other offences when they come into our county.
“So I am delighted that the hard work done to provide the force with the right equipment to combat these gangs, along with the commitment and hard work of frontline officers, is beginning to make a difference.
“I am confident this is just the beginning of a campaign to drive these criminals out of our communities.”
Ben Underwood, eastern regional director for the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “We have seen a concerted effort by Lincolnshire Police to tackle hare coursing this season and it is encouraging to see the number of incidents in the county reducing.
“Seizing dogs can be an effective way to tackle the crime and the CLA is currently lobbying for police forces to be able to reclaim kennelling costs as part of a wider campaign.
“We would also like to see specific sentencing guidelines for hare coursing which would help ensure the stiffest penalties possible are handed out to those committing this crime.
“This would encourage more police forces to take action and hopefully further reduce incidents of hare coursing across the east of England.”