Rural landowners urge Police & Crime Commissioners to ensure hare coursing is ‘high priority’

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The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) East is urging Police and Crime Commissioners across the region to ensure tackling hare coursing is treated as a high priority ahead of the conclusion of this year’s harvest.

Incidents of the illegal activity traditionally begin to increase in the final third of the year after the majority of crops are cleared from the region’s arable fields. Coursers then take advantage of the wide open spaces, trespassing on private land in order to set their dogs on to hares – often betting thousands of pounds on the outcome of the resulting chase.

CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “Reducing crime, and the fear of it, is central to improving the quality of life of people living in our rural communities. Unfortunately, many find their lives blighted by it every day.

“While theft is without doubt the major concern for farmers and rural businesses, wildlife crimes, such as hare coursing, have a huge impact on rural communities and conservation efforts.

“Hare coursers are hardened criminals, who are engaged in illegal betting involving large sums of money, and they are prepared to use violence if disturbed – and many of our members have been victims. Evidence shows that coursers are frequently also involved in other criminal activity too.

“As well as the distress hare coursing causes rural communities, it can lead to crops being destroyed and property damaged, and has a detrimental effect on wildlife and the environment.”

Mr Underwood said that getting PCCs to boost police presence in the countryside would be vital in tackling hare coursing, as well as other rural crimes- adding that it would increase public confidence and help encourage them to report incidents.

He continued: “Research says that almost a third of people did not report the last crime they fell victim to in a rural area. This cannot continue. A strong police presence is required to encourage people to report what they see – as are swift response times and increased engagement with rural communities.

“If the Police can work effectively with farmers, landowners, and those living in the countryside, they can send out a strong message to criminals, such as hare coursers, that they are not welcome in the region.”

• The CLA launched its ‘Standing Against Rural Crime’ campaign before the PCC elections in May, calling for the winning candidates to adopt its five priorities for fighting crime in the countryside: tackling theft; stamping out wildlife crime, such as hare coursing and poaching, and heritage crime; combating fly-tipping; boosting police presence; and endorsing fair funding for policing in rural areas.