Hare coursing gangs are bringing fear and intimidation across Cambridgeshire and are even threatening to torch farms
Rural communities are living in fear from hare-coursing gangs who are threatening violence and to torch homes across the county.
Writing in a police online blog Sergeant Andy Street, has described how the illegal hunters are bringing fear to farmers and residents in pursuit of their ‘sport’.
Sgt Street, of St Ives and Ramsey Neighbourhood Policing Team, says Cambridgeshire police have been called out 341 times in a month to reports of hare coursing.
Fenland PCSOS helped rural officers deal with coursing incidents around Chatteris and Manea on January 7.
From April 2016 to March 2017, officers were called to 1,069 incidents of hare coursing, an increase of 44 per cent on the previous year.
Sgt Street, detailed the harm caused by the illegal hunts and the impact they are having on rural communities.
He said: “Throughout the autumn and winter one of the local issues that police have received the most calls about is hare coursing.
“For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about; hare coursing is where dogs are used to chase hares for sport and is illegal under the Hunting Act of 2004 and the Game Act of 1831.
“Aside from the obvious cruelty issues there are many other factors which make this a problem with which we need to get to grips.
“It is often the case that the hare coursers will be in gangs coming from various parts of the country, they are always very determined to carry out their pursuit and will stop at nothing do so.
“They will often drive across fields of newly set crops, often causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and threatening anyone that challenges them.
“It is fair to say that these gangs have caused a great deal of fear and intimidation in the rural community.
“I know that some people don’t have a lot of sympathy for the farmers but the fact is that by damaging their crops these offenders are damaging their livelihoods.”
He said: “I have known of cases where the coursers have driven straight through the farmyard to get onto a field and when asked not to do so have responded with threats of violence, some have even threatened to burn down the farmer’s home.
“When living in an isolated area it’s no wonder that some of the rural community feel intimidated by this.”
Cambridgeshire police have set up a Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) to help deal with this and other rural crime related problems but they are only a small team and have to cover the entire county.
He added: “Very often when the calls come in it is the local officers that have to attend and we aren’t always best equipped to deal with the problem. The coursers are always in 4x4s and it’s difficult to catch them on fields and muddy droves when driving a front wheel drive patrol car. This is why we have to work together and we need you the public to be vigilant.
“If you this see this taking place please call the police. Note down registration numbers and descriptions of vehicles.
“Sharing the intelligence is something that can have a great deal of advantages. It gives us an early warning system of what and who to look out for.
“There have been recent examples when we have shared these details with other counties and on occasions they have stopped some of the vehicles and found that they are being driven illegally and even by a person wanted for burglary.
“Over the past couple of weeks, in my area we have had some successes in catching and deterring the hare coursers. On January 7 a vehicle was seized by police in Somersham after having its tyre punctured by a stinger and the occupant was caught. On January 14 four people were arrested for coursing in Warboys and their vehicle was seized.
“But rather than just reacting when they are here we want to try to stop them coming at all. The RCAT are pursuing civil court injunctions in order to stop known offenders from coming here and giving us greater powers to deal with them when they do.
“Very often we concentrate most of our resources in the towns but I’d like to reassure the rural community that we will do our best to keep you safe as well.”