It’s the start of the hare coursing season and Suffolk Constabulary have teamed up with neighbouring forces to combat this crime.
Suffolk’s Rural Crime and Wildlife Team met with colleagues from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex at the Audley End Estate near Saffron Walden to share information and discuss tactics to tackle the cruelty of hare coursing and the organised crime groups which profit from it.
Together with Hertfordshire, Kent and Norfolk, the seven forces in the Eastern Region pledged a year ago to work across policing borders and launched Operation Galileo to do exactly that.
Incidents of hare coursing across Suffolk and the other six force areas dropped to 1,415 in 2021-22 from 2,044 in 2020-21 – a fall of almost a third (31%).
Of course, there is still more to be done and the forces’ rural crime teams this year are working with the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter and using drones to improve their ability to spot hare courses in action.
Suffolk Rural Crime and Wildlife Sergeant Brian Calver said: “We take such criminality in Suffolk seriously, as we recognise that those who engage in these barbaric offences are involved in many aspects of criminality and are a risk to the wider community. We’ll continue to work together as a region to tackle this and will use all tools at our disposal.”
Tom White, Audley End Estate’s resident agent, said: “It’s the threat to farmers, gamekeepers and estate staff as well as to property. The attacks and vilification which come from hare coursers is a constant pressure.
“People living in remote areas don’t always know who’s about or what they are up to and criminals know this. There’s always the fear of retaliation so support from the police is such a reassurance.
“The sight of all the police officers, their vehicles and the helicopter ready to act on reports of hare coursing and other crime is such a huge lift for everybody.
“Cross-border co-operation is crucial to combat this barbaric crime and the people associated with it.”
Op Galileo tackles ‘borderless’ hare coursing
The seven forces of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk linked up in September 2021 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, such as community protection warnings and notices and criminal behaviour orders.
They also share information about automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), the seizure of dogs and all interactions and movements of people suspected to be involved in hare coursing.
What is hare coursing?
Hare coursing traditionally begins in September or October - depending on the weather - when crops 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 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.
What can I do to help?
If you see hare coursing taking place, ring 999 immediately and provide as much information as you can – for example, a What3Words location, 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 where you can also speak to an online Live Chat operator between 10am and 9pm. 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 Suffolk Constabulary’s Rural Crime webpages HERE.