Police take to the skies to clampdown on hare coursing in Cambridgeshire where there has been a massive rise in the offence in recent weeks

12 november 2015 - four men arrested then released due to lack of evidence - for suspected hare cour

12 november 2015 - four men arrested then released due to lack of evidence - for suspected hare coursing. - Credit: Archant

Hare coursing and poaching has risen massively across Cambridgeshire with 450 incidents reported in just 10 weeks - the equivalent to around seven a day.

The escalating numbers has forced police to up their game in a bid to catch offenders and to make our area ‘a hard target’ for would-be offenders.

Helicopters and drones have become increasingly used by police to try to catch the culprits in the act.

There have been 450 incidents of hare coursing or poaching in Cambridgeshire from November to January 12.

This according to Stefan Gidlow, Cambridgeshire Countryside Watch regional officer, is “definitely a huge increase compared to previous years”.

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He believes police are struggling to keep on top of the problem because “they can’t compete with the number of coursers coming into the county.”

But police say those caught in the act can expect swift action including having their vehicles and cash seized on the spot and being reported for summons.

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Sgt Phil Priestley from East Cambridgeshire Police said rather than arresting suspects the focus is on immediate action including interviewing those involved at the scene.

He said arresting suspects is “time consuming and expensive” and does not always equal a higher rate of prosecution or disruption.

Instead, he said: “The seizure of evidence there and then proves the offence and disrupts the behaviour, and suspects will usually be reported for summons.

“Seizure of vehicles is an excellent method of causing inconvenience to such offenders and clearly, when most offences are committed by offenders from outside of the region, it will leave the criminal with the problem of getting home.

“If we find animals that are clearly neglected or abused we will make contact with the RSPCA and look to take appropriate action.

“However, due to the nature of the crime (which is a competition essentially to see who has the ‘best’ dog) this is very, very rare.

“The cruelty of the crime is often in the destruction of wildlife.”

He continued: “We will deploy air support to obtain comprehensive footage of the activities that are taking place, where it is possible to do so. This includes the use of both police helicopter resources, and more recently the consideration of drone technology too.

“We want prospective offenders who are considering these offences in our region to see East Cambridgeshire as a hard target, and that the downside of being caught here is that you are likely to be deprived of far more than it is worth to the criminal in coming here.”

Mr Gidlow said: “The farming world understand that the police have other priorities than rural crime, like children and vulnerable people, and that they have not got enough resources to tackle it.

“There doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to stop these people coming in. The police are trying their best to tackle it but they can’t compete with the number of coursers coming into the county.

“The worst thing of all this is the threat and intimidation of confrontation between land owners and coursers.”

In order to hit hare coursers harder, Cambridgeshire Police are calling for higher fines - up to £500. Additionally, officers are looking at anti-social behaviour orders for repeat offenders.

Cambridgeshire Police relaunched Operation Dornier II to combat hare coursing and poaching in Cambridgeshire in November.

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