New police team to tackle hare coursers

HARE coursers are being warned about a new police operation to clamp down on their cruel and illegal activity.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), Lincolnshire Police will be launching Operation Galileo to tackle and reduce the incidents across the county - and are asking local communities for help.

The force says it is taking ‘a proactive approach’ to dealing with the crime this year with the formation of a dedicated team to bring offenders to justice.

Insp Andy Ham said: “During the hare coursing season, which lasts from around September to March, the number of incidents has increased each year. As well as being illegal, it causes disruption, inconvenience and alarm to members of our rural communities.

“Evidence shows that the type of people who participate in it are often involved in other forms of criminal activity and in the main come from outside of Lincolnshire, regularly as repeat offenders.

“Having a dedicated team will enable us to not only respond quickly to reports and calls from the public, but it will also mean we can improve the way we gather intelligence, monitor activities, patterns and locations, and consequently plan our policing activities and resources for maximum effect.”

The newly-formed Galileo Team will consist of a sergeant and six police officers, including the force’s wildlife officer and one dog handler. They will work their shifts according to periods when hare coursing activity has been shown to peak.

Insp Ham says, “We are determined to tackle this crime proactively and want to send out a strong message to criminals that Lincolnshire is not an easy target for their activities. We are seeking to disrupt their networks and deter them from blighting our countryside with their crimes.”

Insp Ham urges everyone to contribute to the police’s ability to deal with offences by being vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity to them.

“No-one knows the countryside better than the communities themselves and they are best placed to notice unfamiliar people, vehicles and suspicious activities,” said Insp Ham. “Please contact the police to report these straight away. Ideally, take note of vehicle registrations, times and specific locations. However, even information such as the make, colour and direction of travel of vehicles can be extremely valuable to us, as every piece of information is like a piece of a puzzle and can help us to build up a picture of what the hare coursers are doing and where they are targeting.”

Lincolnshire Police said that since the implementation of the Hunting Act in 2005, reported incidents of hare coursing have seen a year-on-year increase, ‘sometimes significantly so’.

The season September 2010 to February 2011 saw an unprecedented rise with more than 1,100 incidents being reported, and this despite the severe weather conditions over Christmas 2010.

The Galileo Team will also be working with other rural and community communications systems such as the Lincs Alert messaging system, Farm Watch and Horse Watch.

To report incidents or suspicions of hare coursing dial 101.