‘You’re not welcome here!’ That was the strong message from Lincolnshire Police at the relaunch of a major operation to tackle harecoursing.
Operation Galileo was a major success in 2017 and the early part of this year with 76 dogs being seized from criminals who were setting them loose to chase and kill hares.
The county saw a 30% fall in the number of incidents –from 1,965 in 2016/17 down to 1,365 in 2017/18.
Police say the decline was down to working closer with rural communities and the use of new technology and tactics to prevent offending - including drones with thermal imaging capability.
The drones are back, along with quadbikes and Ford Kugas which the force uses flexibly to respond to incidents.
This season, three Ford Rangers join the ranks which will have greater capacity to safely hold seized dogs and more power to tackle the more difficult rural terrains.
All in all, it is a formidable show of strength to tackle a scourge of the countryside.
And while the focus is on harecoursing, police are determined to tackle all rural crime.
Superintendent Phil Vickers, Lincolnshire Police’s lead for rural crime, said: “We are in good shape for this season with new vehicles and our drone can now be deployed 24/7 as more officers have been trained to fly them.
“Last season was very positive and we are looking at building on that while also improving our efforts to fight other rural crimes such as thefts of machinery and dangerous driving.
“People who live in our rural communities play a vital part in helping us gather intelligence and now CrimeStoppers have launched a number just for reporting rural crimes for people who wish to remain anonymous.
“Please report information - however insignificant you might think it is, as it may help us piece together a crime and prevent others from becoming victims.”
The county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones is happy to back the initiative.
He said: “I made a commitment to ensure our force has the right tools for the job to combat these gangs and we have already made great strides in that area.
“The behaviour of these organised criminals from across the country goes far beyond the illegal act of hunting hares with dogs and can involve significant risk of serious harm to our community and will not be tolerated in Lincolnshire.
“The police are more operationally ready for these criminals than ever before and the work the Chief Constable and I have done to ensure the criminal justice system understands the gravity of these crimes will support them in keeping our communities safer than ever.
“The message is simple, Lincolnshire is not a safe place for criminals of any kind.
“If you come here to course then expect to leave your dogs in our care and have the full weight of the law used against you.”
NFU Regional Director, Gordon Corner, said: “Last year’s encouraging reduction in harecoursing incidents needs to be built on again and with the increased resources available to Lincolnshire Police we hope to see this happen.”
CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “We know there is likely to be a spike in incidents of hare coursing.
“It is encouraging to see police taking the issue seriously.
“Many of our members are extremely concerned about the crime taking place on their land due to the damage to crops and property and the threats of violence that canoccur.
“We urge the police to be relentless.”