CLA East has recently raised concerns of a possible rise in hare coursing as fields are cleared of standing crops this harvest. Lincolnshire Police Chief Inspector Jim Tyner provides a guest blog on how his team are tackling the crime in the county.
In these days of tightened police budgets I am often challenged by colleagues and members of the public who live in our more urban communities. They ask me why I place so much emphasis on combating hare coursing. I’m told ‘it’s just dogs chasing rabbits.’ There is an idealised vision of Hearbeat’s loveable rogue Claude Greengrass getting ‘one for the pot’.
I can see their point of view when colleagues are burdened with complex investigations, protecting young or vulnerable people at risk of sexual assault or responding to never-ending emergencies. I can also see the point of view of those in our towns or cities who want action taken against drug users or street drinkers and resent that resources put towards fighting hare coursing are diverting police officers away from patrols in urban areas.
Of course all of these things are important and I can understand why some people fail to understand why we invest our time in ‘a dog chasing bunnies’. At this time of year hare coursing in the county is one of our major issues. I have met with many local farmers and I am in absolutely no doubt as to the impact that hare coursers have on your quality of life and feeling of safety. Hare coursing blights businesses and individuals.
For me, it’s all about the victims. Like all police forces we put in place extra measures to support victims of domestic abuse. This is because of the added vulnerability compared to other assault victims. In the same way, repeat victims of anti-social behaviour (ASB) receive an enhanced service from the police and partners because it is recognised that the sustained nature of ASB can have an effect on the victim that far outweighs the incidents of ASB.
For me, there is an added vulnerability for victims of hare coursing due to the rural nature of the offence. Let me explain. Over 25-years of policing Lincolnshire there have been many times that I have been in fields with hare coursers. It can be intimidating. It can be downright frightening. But I’m lucky as I have my training, my police radio to summon help, my pepper spray, my baton and my handcuffs. But best of all, the hare coursers don’t know where I live. I get to go home at the end of my shift. For farmers, the hare coursers know exactly where you live. Their activity is sometimes linked to violent behaviour and there is a genuine fear of associated intimidation and ASB, causing concerns amongst the farming and rural communities.
Many hare coursers are persons of interest to other forces and their presence on land is often linked to other rural crime such as theft of plant & equipment. There is also damage to gates and crops as well as irresponsible, sometimes dangerous, driving on our country roads and through our villages.
Look at the map:
This shows the locations of the roughly 2000 incidents of hare coursing between September 2016 and March 2017 in Lincolnshire. Behind each of these coloured dots is a victim. Often the victims are isolated and vulnerable and at risk of threats and intimidation. To have this happen to a victim once is bad enough, but many of our victims suffer this experience day in, day out.
So, cracking down further on hare coursing is a priority for our Chief Constable and Operation Galileo is Lincolnshire Police’s response to hare coursing. We put extra patrols in hot-spot areas and work closely with neighbouring forces. This year we have invested in 4x4 vehicles and quad bikes for our Rural Crime Team. Our officers will have access to night vision goggles and a number of drones for use across the county, available 24/7.
Clearly in a county of over 2,600 square miles we can’t get to every incident, but we have had some success. Between September 2015 and March 2017 we have arrested, charged or reported for summons 217 men. In the same period we have seized 44 vehicles linked to hare coursing. We were the first force to introduce a policy of seizing dogs. So far we have seized 36 dogs. This is a costly process as we have to pay the kennel costs until a case is brought to trial but I am convinced that this is the single biggest deterrent to those that would want to visit our county for hare coursing.
There is still a lot of work to be done to eradicate hare coursing from our county but we are committed to making Lincolnshire hostile to hare coursers.
Follow Chief Inspector Jim Tyner on twitter @ChInsp_JimTyner