Police have joined forces to combat the problem of hare-coursing by sharing information about offenders.
Some 21 constabularies are working together to combat the crime, which sees big money change hands as dogs chase hares across fields. Called Operation Galileo, police will share intelligence about coursers during the 2020/21 season.
Prevention continues to be a key focus, supported by more sophisticated prosecution and intelligence gathering capabilities. In many cases, officers use drones to monitor offenders without them knowing.
Operation Galileo is led by Lincolnshire Police. Chief inspector Phil Vickers, the force’s lead for rural crime, said farmers and other rural residents had a key role in helping the police gather intelligence.
“We are in good shape for this season. Last season was very positive and we are looking at building on that, while also improving our efforts to fight other rural crimes such as theft of machinery and dangerous driving.”
Bringing 21 police forces together meant officers were able to target offenders who caused the greatest harm to rural communities by sharing information and intelligence from across the whole of the UK, said Mr Vickers.
“The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) continues to support us, and this year we are ready to use legislation in new ways against hare coursers, to seize property, assets and dogs to make hare coursing as difficult, and unattractive as possible.
Mr Vickers said police were also working with the NFU and Country Land and Business Association to seek changes to legislation that would make it easier to combat hare-coursing, with their efforts recognised in parliament.
Many forces now use drones to monitor and track hare-coursers – using footage as evidence in court to secure convictions. Lincolnshire was among the first to invest in the technology, making drones available for in rural areas 24 hours a day.
Lincolnshire police and crime commissioner Marc Jones said: “I am delighted the investments I have made in cutting edge technology and equipment specifically designed for use in rural areas is making a difference.
“Hare coursers do not just have a negative impact on farming communities. The gangs that peddle in this cruel pursuit are responsible for other crimes across our rural communities and our road network.”
NFU Lincolnshire adviser Rhonda Thompson said: “Lincolnshire Police have increased their focus on hare coursing and rural crime in recent years. There have been wins along the way and a reduction in incidents overall, which is really encouraging.”