Lincolnshire Police are trialling a fostering scheme to look after the dogs seized during operations to combat illegal hare coursing.
As the force’s Operation Galileo gears up to deal with the new season for hare coursing, Supt Phil Vickers, the force’s lead on rural crime said revealed in an update on their work that they are devising the new system to overcome the rising cost of kennelling the confiscated dogs.
He also said that the force is taking steps to take the fight to the doorsteps of known hare coursers by targeting the neighbourhoods where they live.
In a broader look at rural crime and the concern surrounnding thefts from rural areas and farmers, Supt Vickers added: “It is clear that even when the number of claims or offences reduces, it is higher value items that are being targeted.”
Returning to hare coursing, he said Lincolnshire saw a 30 per cent reduction in the number of hare coursing incidents last year, thanks mainly to the tactic of seizing dogs, he believed.
He explained: “We know that seizing dogs used by hare coursers was particularly unpopular with offenders, it was a new tactic but not one that all police forces adopted. I believe that as a consequence there was some diversion from
Lincolnshire to other counties – this isn’t ‘success’ in my view as it simply moves the misery to other victims and though forces work closely together, we all need to be more effective in the tactics we use.
“By reducing hare coursing demand on the force we are able to spend more time on other policing priorities and it is my intention that we continue to put effort into tactics which achieve that.”
He said: “Seizing dogs (76 last year) comes at a cost to the force – dogs are placed in kennels while prosecutions are pending – so we are developing a dog ‘fostering’ scheme, where members of the public can support us by providing a temporary home for seized animals – we’ll provide more details as the plan develops.”
Another impact of their initiative was that offenders desperate to avoid losing their animals drove off from officers, leading to high risk pursuits across the county. Supt Vickers said it was not something officers engage in lightly due to risk to the wider public.
“We have been able to put in place measures to prevent such incidents, and to ensure we have the right resources in place where they do occur.”
Turning attention to known previous offenders, he said the force is going on the offensive, warning them not to even bother entering Lincolnshire in the pursuit of hares and advising neighbours to inform on them if they try.
He said: “Last month I wrote to 10 people involved in hare coursing in Lincolnshire last year, and explained that it is my intention to make Lincolnshire a hostile environment for hare coursing. We will continue to make innovative use of the legal powers available to us – for this year, that means greater use of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) legislation and a more proactive approach to dealing with offenders.
“I won’t be waiting for hare coursers to come to our county, we will be going out to where offenders live and taking the fight through their front door.
“In addition to those 10 individuals, I wrote to 143 of their neighbours. I explained that a member of their community had visited Lincolnshire and committed offences that have caused misery. I explained that no one supports animal cruelty, and that there are steps they can take to help us tackle it.”
He provided details of how to get in touch anonymously with the CrimeStoppers Rural Crime Reporting Line – 0800 783 0137.
Supt Vickers said: “We know that those rural offenders brag about their activities, on social media and to their neighbours, so the CrimeStoppers line is a particularly useful system – I’ve had positive experience of CrimeStoppers information corroborating other information in the past and helping us to target key offenders in Lincolnshire.
“Some of those offenders travel significant distances to offend in Lincolnshire and most are well known to their local officers for different types of criminality in their local community.”
The force is also planing to link up closely with the Lincolnshire Horse Watch Scheme which has over 1,200 members, aiming to offer more support to riders in return for up to date reporting on key rural issues of theft, hare
coursing and fly tipping, for example.
“I want to target recruitment in the south of the county initially, but it will be open to all Horse Watch members,” he explained.