SOUTH HOLLAND: THE CAPITAL OF HARE COURSING

OPERATION GALILEO: The number of hare coursing incidents reported in South Holland between September and December 2015 were more than twice that of any other area of Lincolnshire over the same period.
OPERATION GALILEO: The number of hare coursing incidents reported in South Holland between September and December 2015 were more than twice that of any other area of Lincolnshire over the same period.
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South Holland is the capital of hare coursing in Lincolnshire, with more than twice as many reports of the crime here as anywhere else in Lincolnshire.

Figures obtained by the Spalding Guardian from Lincolnshire Police, under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that officers had dealt with 511 reports of suspected hare coursing in South Holland between September and December 2015.

Across Lincolnshire and its border with neighbouring counties, there were 1,367 reports of suspected hare coursing over the same period.

Within the same period, police had reported 131 people for summons to court, with others warned to leave Lincolnshire and having either vehicles or dogs seized.

Chief Inspector Jim Tyner, ex-South Holland community policing inspector and now lead officer on rural crime, said: “The figures show there are considerably more reports of hare coursing in South Holland compared to other areas of the county.

“However, not every incident reported as hare coursing turns out to be so as some are genuine dog walkers or authorised vermin controllers.

“These figures, whilst not fully accurate, still show the huge challenge facing us and why we continue to treat hare coursing as a priority. “Operation Galileo patrols continue and this is reflected in our enforcement action, with 161 men arrested or reported for summons so far this season.”

The police’s handling of hare coursing crimes came under fire at a meeting of farmers in Spalding just before Christmas, three months after a decision to pass over hare coursing reports from a dedicated team of Operation Galileo police officers to neighbourhood policing teams.

Since the Operation Galileo team was set up in September 2012, at least 350 people were prosecuted for hare coursing and the number of reports across Lincolnshire dropped by 37 per cent in two years from about 1,200 in 2011-12 to 756 in 2013-14.

NFU county chairman Ian Stancer said: “However the statistics are massaged, there is little doubt that over the autumn, winter and very likely continuing into the spring, South Holland in particular has been targeted by hare coursers.

“This can only have been encouraged initially by the mixed messages over policing intent at the start of the (hare coursing) ‘season’.

“But there is also no doubt that once the intensity of the problem was recognised, Lincolnshire Police has stepped up its action and had considerable success in apprehending and, to a certain extent, deterring some of the culprits.

“However, statistics don’t show the full picture as for every ‘confirmed’ case of actual hare coursing, there may be a dozen incidents of these people driving around the district, terrorising and intimidating the population, destroying gates, spoiling crops and violating privacy.

“This is all done while simply looking for hares and as there will of course be many reported sightings that are duplicated, there will also conversely be many instances where the crime or potential criminal goes unreported due to the perceived futility of doing so.”

South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes, who joined up to 80 farmers, NFU officials and police to discuss hare coursing at Springfields Events and Conference Centre last December, said: “Several comments were by police at the meeting about seizing dogs and seizures of vehicles.

“It will be very interesting to know whether progress has been made on both of these things as the main concern at the meeting was about both the volume and frequency of hare coursing incidents.

“It’s intimidating for people who own land, smallholdings and farms, as well as growers, and at the meeting, the police said that they take hare coursing seriously and are committed to doing a number of things.

“I want to know what they have done in terms of how many vehicles they have seized, the number of dogs seized and people cautioned.”

“These figures, whilst not fully accurate, still show the huge challenge facing us and why we continue to treat hare coursing as a priority.

“Operation Galileo patrols continue and this is reflected in our enforcement action, with 161 men arrested or reported for summons so far.”

The police’s handling of coursing came under fire at a meeting of farmers just before Christmas, three months after a decision to pass over coursing reports from a dedicated team of Operation Galileo police officers to neighbourhood policing teams.

Since the Operation Galileo team was set up in September 2012, at least 350 people were prosecuted for hare coursing and the number of reports across Lincolnshire dropped by 37 per cent in two years from about 1,200 in 2011-12 to 756 in 2013-14.

NFU county chairman Ian Stancer said: “However the statistics are massaged, there is little doubt that over the autumn, winter and very likely continuing into the spring, South Holland in particular has been targeted by hare coursers. This can only have been encouraged initially by the mixed messages over policing intent at the start of the (hare coursing) ‘season’.

“But there is also no doubt that once the intensity of the problem was recognised, Lincolnshire Police stepped up its action and had considerable success in apprehending and, to a certain extent, deterring some of the culprits.

“However, statistics don’t show the full picture as, for every ‘confirmed’ case of actual hare coursing, there may be a dozen incidents of these people driving around the district, terrorising and intimidating the population, destroying gates, spoiling crops and violating privacy.

“This is all done while simply looking for hares and as there will, of course, be many reported sightings that are duplicated, there will also be many instances where the crime or potential criminal goes unreported due to the perceived futility of doing so.”

South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes, who joined up to 80 farmers, NFU officials and police to discuss hare coursing at Springfields Events and Conference Centre last December, said: “Several comments were by police at the meeting about seizing dogs and seizures of vehicles.

“It will be very interesting to know whether progress has been made on both of these things as the main concern at the meeting was about both the volume and frequency of hare coursing incidents.

“It’s intimidating for people who own land, smallholdings and farms, as well as growers, and at the meeting, police said that they take hare coursing seriously and are committed to doing a number of things. I want to know what they have done in terms of how many vehicles they have seized, the number of dogs seized and people cautioned.”