Hare coursing across the East of England has fallen by nearly a third thanks to the success of a ‘borderless’ scheme among police forces.
The crackdown on rural crime comes after Kent Police and six other police forces teamed up in September.
Borders between the forces – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent – were removed when using certain tactics, which has made apprehending and prosecuting offenders easier.
The agreement, completed with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service, means the forces become one when using certain powers.
Over the past six months this has helped with the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), the seizure of dogs and the sharing of all interactions and movements of people suspected to be involved in hare coursing.
The move also supports the ongoing national initiative against hare coursing – Operation Galileo.
Sergeant Darren Walshaw of Kent Police Rural Task Force said: ‘By working collaboratively we have been significantly more effective and this has resulted in a reduction in reports of hare coursing.
‘Whilst in the region hare coursing reports have fallen by around 31%, in Kent, we have experienced a reduction of 37% with 329 reports received between September 2021 and March 2022 compared with 523 the previous year, which is 194 fewer incidents.
‘We will continue with the collaboration and continue to work together to further reduce illegal coursing, lamping and poaching.’
Hare coursing traditionally begins in September when the fields have been harvested and ploughed, making them the perfect ground for the illegal blood sport. Hare coursing causes damage to crops, harms animal welfare and threatens the rural community. It can result in intimidation and even violence.
Landowners are urged to consider blocking entrances to their fields with ditches, fencing or trees or even barriers like barrels filled with concrete.
Sally Robinson, a District Crown Prosecutor for the CPS, said: ‘Those who commit hare coursing have historically exploited the borders of neighbouring forces to continue their illegal activities, causing the extreme suffering and unlawful killing of hares, whilst also having a harmful effect on our rural communities.
‘By using the legal expertise of the CPS and the operational knowledge of seven police forces in an innovative and collaborative way to effectively remove those borders, we have collectively built stronger cases for prosecution and made it harder for the perpetrators to offend in the future.
‘The CPS takes wildlife crime seriously and we will continue to work closely with the police and other partners to bring offenders to justice whenever our legal test is met.’
Anyone who sees hare coursing taking place is asked to contact police immediately on 999 and provide officers with a description of the people involved, any registration numbers, vehicle descriptions and the location and direction of travel. Its important people don’t confront hare coursers or put themselves at risk.