Hare coursing across the East of England has fallen by almost a third, thanks to the success of a ‘borderless’ policing scheme.
Incidents of hare coursing across Essex and six other force areas fell from 2,044 in 2020-21 to 1,415 in 2021-22 – a drop of 31 per cent.
The crackdown on this rural crime came after Essex Police teamed up with the Beds, Cambs, Herts, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk forces last September to remove policing borders when certain tactics are used.
This has made catching 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 Paul Brady, of the Rural Engagement Team, said: “It’s a great achievement and our collaboration demonstrates to those intent on causing physical and mental harm to our rural communities that we will not tolerate their barbaric actions.
“Our forces will continue to work together with the CPS, who have been an immense help, to further reduce illegal hare coursing and poaching across the region.
“The Government set out in January new plans to strengthen the powers and penalties available to tackle hare coursing. If passed into law, these increased penalties will help target offenders even more robustly.”
Hare coursing traditionally begins in September when the fields have been harvested and ploughed, making them the perfect ground for the illegal blood sport.
It causes damage to crops, harms animal welfare and threatens rural communities. 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.
CPS District Crown Prosecutor Sally Robinson 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.”
Do you have information?
If you see hare coursing taking place, ring 999 and provide as much information as you can – for example, a description of the people involved, vehicle registration numbers, vehicle descriptions and the location and direction of travel.
However, it is very important that you don’t confront hare coursers or put yourself at risk.
If you see anything which you feel needs police attention, or you have information about a crime or criminal activity, always ring 999 if it is an emergency or a crime in progress.
Otherwise you can report it online at www.essex.police.uk where you can also speak to an online Live Chat operator between 7am and 11pm. Alternatively, you can ring 101.
You can also contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, online or by calling 0800 555 111.
For more information and advice on rural crime visit the Rural Crime webpages.