Lincolnshire hare coursing complaints drop by 25%, say police
Complaints about hare coursing in Lincolnshire have seen a year-on-year drop of 25%, police have said.
There were 455 reports between September to December this year compared to 611 for the same period in 2012, Lincolnshire Police said.
Local farmer Mark Leggott believes the force's dedicated hare coursing team has driven down illegal hunting in the county.
The eight-man Operation Galileo team was formed in Lincolnshire in 2012.
Insp Andy Ham said the team members had increased patrols and were more "intelligence driven".
He said the team relied on the public "to notice unfamiliar people and vehicles, and provide the team with intelligence about crimes blighting Lincolnshire's rural area".
He said the hare coursers were "dipping in and dipping out of Lincolnshire" and were now operating in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk where the police forces do not have a specialised unit.'Not letting up'
The Galileo squad had arrested 90 hare coursing suspects by mid-December this year compared to 101 in the same period in 2012, he said.
What is hare coursing?
- In hare coursing, hares are pursued by greyhounds and other sighthounds, which chase the hare by sight rather than their scent
- Some see it as a traditional activity while some argue it is a cruel blood sport
- Hare coursing is illegal in the UK under the Hunting Act 2004, which took effect from 18 February 2005
However, he added that the team "don't want to be complacent".
"We have cut incidents and prosecuted a lot of people but we don't want the hare coursers to think we are letting up."
Mr Leggott said he thought the squad had driven down illegal hunting in rural areas of Lincolnshire over the past two years.
He said there had been "forays by hare coursers" in his area but police had responded quickly.
"I haven't had any this year - but my neighbours who have had problems say police have dealt with them.
"There is a hardcore of people out there who are determined to come hare coursing no matter the fines or restraining orders," he added.
Mr Leggott, who farms near Boston, wants to see jail terms as a punishment for hare coursers.
"They keep coming back - police need not only to confiscate vehicles but to use court restraining orders as well."
The Galileo team is usually busy on Boxing Day, he added, because hares are attracted into the fields by the young winter crops.