Police across Lincolnshire have one less vehicle to worry about in their fight against illegal hare coursing.
A Honda CR-V, seized by police in Deeping St James last September when exactly 100 reports of hare coursing were received by Lincolnshire Police, was crushed under powers brought in by the Coalition Government in 2011.
The crushing ‘ceremony’ on Thursday came just a week after farmers met the new Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, Bill Skelly, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Marc Jones, and several county MPs to discuss the “rising menace” of hare coursing. A South Holland farmer, who asked not to be named, said: “It went pretty well and the new Chief Constable didn’t try to take any position at all, bluff his way through or try to make out that he knew more than he did.
“He spent most of the time listening but after that, Mr Skelly said he would take hare coursing very seriously and that he got the message of police having come up short.
“Already, we’ve seen a vast improvement in both the amount of police response time and the seriousness with which they take hare coursing.
“But we shouldn’t underestimate the opposition as the hare coursing element have already upped their game by finding out what the police can and can’t cope with.
“Immediate action by Lincolnshire Police, since the meeting, has yielded immediate results.
“But that’s only as good as for how long they can sustain it.”
Complacency was in very short supply during the car crushing which was witnessed by the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Coun Stuart Tweedale, Assistant Chief Constable Paul Gibson and police officers on the frontline in the fight against hare coursing.
Police Constable Nick Willey, Lincolnshire Police’s respresentative on the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “We’ve been inundated this season, with a marked increase in hare coursing incidents, and we’ve been particularly rushed off our feet.
“But as a force, we made a decision to start seizing the dogs and that has upped the ante a bit.
“For me, it’s about working together and there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to train up officers in order to concentrate on rural crime during their normal policing duties.
“We do tend to get a few dangerous driving incidents involving hare coursers, whereas before they would stop and we would deal with them.
“The hare coursing figures are high, without a doubt, and, as a force, we’ve had criticism in relation to certain aspects of it, some of it unfounded.
“The new Chief Constable and PCC have both recognised that hare coursing is a major issue, criminals involved in what is utter criminality.
“Lincolnshire is a big county and there’s only so much you can do, so I’ll accept every criticism we get.
“We don’t always get things right all the time, but people like myself are passionate about the hare coursing issue and things are very positive.
“Dispersal orders (where police can tell a person to leave the area and not return within a certain time) are working and we’re having enquiries from our counterparts in other parts of the country about hare coursers.”
Another weapon at the disposal of Lincolnshire Police is the power to seize vehicles they suspect are being used in a way that “causes alarm, harassment or distress”.
This includes any vehicle being driven by someone who does not have a proper driving licence or insurance and drives “dangerously, illegally or is obstructively parked, broken down or abandoned”, according to the law.
Mr Gibson said: “It’s very clear to us that hare coursing has a really negative effect on how people feel in rural communities.
“What we have to do is prioritise all the different services we provide to all different parts of the county. However, we have changed our plans slightly in that we have dedicated officers, an analyst and an anti-social behaviour (ASB) officer to tackle this problem.
“We also stand by our neighbourhood policing and response officers who are equpiied to deal with hare coursers, as well as being really creative in the use of ASB legislation.”
During a day of action, four men who were caught hare coursing in Holbeach St Marks were warned that two vehicles they used could be seized if they were found to be breaking the law in the county again.
Mr Jones said: “The thing that’s been great is the willingness of the police to try to tackle hare coursing.
“It’s having an impact and we’re looking at new and innovative ways to deal with this issue.”