As the combines leave the coursers arrive
The Lincolnshire police force is reporting that it is making excellent progress in deterring hare coursers, reporting a decline in crimes and states: “There were 1048 incidents of hare coursing reported to us across the county between September 2019 and March 2020. For the same period during 2018 to 2019 we received 873 reports, 1365 reports for 2017 to 2018 and 1965 for 2016 to 2017.”
However, today the NFU published its annual rural crime report, showing that the cost of rural crime reached £54million in 2019. This is the highest level for eight years and the NFU reports that criminal gangs are targeting high value tractors, quad bikes and large numbers of livestock.
Farmers hit by hare coursing
Indeed, local farmers however are reporting that things are looking very different for them. When asked about his experiences of hare coursing, Cambridgeshire gamekeeper and Shooting Times contributor Ed Cole commented: “Things aren’t looking great on that front already. They’ve been out quite a bit day and night. Standing crops don’t seem to be bothering them. A lot of gates smashed and locks gas axed off. It’s looking like it will potentially be worse than last year. Same faces, different vehicles.”
A farmer who did not wish to be identified for fear of reprisals said: “2018 was a mammoth year, everyone got hit repeatedly. In 2020 it’s been very quiet so far but things have started to pick up as the fields have started to clear. Last winter very wet weather played its part. “
Shooting UK also spoke to Sergeant Brian Calver of Suffolk Constabulary who commented that last year there had been a reduction in Suffolk, believed to be partly down to the wet weather and predominantly clay soils locally. Earlier in the season vehicles were getting stuck in fields, which increased the offenders’ chances of getting caught.
He also said: “ These cruel thugs are not welcome in Suffolk and have no place in a civilised society. Make no mistake, these are not a few blokes taking one for the pot. These are organised criminal gangs causing misery to rural communities, killing our wildlife and putting lives at risk in order for them to selfishly evade capture for their crimes.”
A source said: “These criminals will stop at very little to ensure they get away and take no responsibility for their actions. They’ve rammed farmers vehicles and police vehicles alike, with no regards for anybody’s safety, including their own. We’ve even had a report of a hand gun pointed towards a gamekeeper.”
WhatsApp groups are an invaluable tool for local farmers and landowners to fight the criminal gangs, as they ensure sightings and activity can be reported live time, alerting other farmers
So what can be done to stop illegal coursing? Chief Inspector Phil Vickers, who heads up rural crime for the Lincolnshire police force, advised: “Hare coursers are deterred by the threat of having their valuable dogs taken from them. We’re partnering with the NFU to ensure legislation is passed allowing dogs to be seized and not returned. We’d also like the cost of seizing the dogs to be passed onto the offenders. In Lincolnshire we seize dogs at every opportunity but by doing this we can incur costs running into the thousands.”