South Holland and Lincolnshire saw 'several hundred" hare coursing cases, admit police
A surge in hare coursing across South Holland and Lincolnshire is causing "real concern", the senior officer for rural crime in the county has admitted.
Chief Inspector Phil Vickers revealed that "several hundred incidents" of gangs trespassing on farmland to hunt hares had been reported in October.
He blamed the rise in incidents on gangs being displaced from neighbouring counties, including Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, by police forces adopting Operation Galileo tactics to deal with hare coursing.
Mr Vickers said: "We saw relatively few hare coursing incidents in September because of the relatively late harvest for most of the county this year.
"However, that was more than made up for in October when we saw a hugely significant increase in hare coursing incidents.
"It's caused us real concern, even though there was some pent-up demand due to the late start of the hare coursing season.
"But a number of other forces have adopted the tactics associated with Operation Galileo, including the seizure of dogs.
"So there's been an element of displacement where as different forces push forward with their raft of measures, offenders come back to Lincolnshire."
In October 2019, 168 hare coursing incidents were reported in Lincolnshire, compared to just 81 a year earlier.
A dispersal order allowing police to order anyone involved, or suspected of involvement, in hare coursing, to leave Lincolnshire was put in place for nine hours on Friday in response to reports of hare coursing during the day.
Mr Vickers said: "To put a dispersal order in place, an officer would need to see a real risk of offending and I'm anticipating that we'll see further dispersal orders used during this month and next month.
"One of the benefits of lockdown is that we have fewer officers being used for Friday and Saturday night pub and club patrols.
"So we're able to reallocate those officers to Operation Galileo and see an increase in the number of policing resources that are able to respond to reports of hare coursing."
During October, four men were summoned to court on suspicion of hare coursing in Tongue End where a vehicle and four dogs were also seized.
Mr Vickers said: "It's important that the courts have the power to deal with these offences properly and we're still working on that"
NFU county adviser Danny O'Shea said: "We are devastated to see an increase in reports of hare coursing in the county, particularly after the big strides made in tackling it in recent years.
"Operation Galileo has helped cut incidents across Lincolnshire and we now need to double down our efforts to remove this blight on our countryside for good."