Essex Police has teamed up with six other police forces in the Eastern Region in an effort to tackle hare coursing.
The borders between the forces, which include Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent, have been removed, making apprehending and prosecuting offenders easier.
The agreement, which has been completed with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service, means the seven forces become one force when using certain powers. This will assist with the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), the seizure of dogs and the sharing of all interactions and movements of people suspected to be involved in hare coursing.
This move supports the ongoing national initiative - Operation Galileo – which aims to tackle hare coursing.
Chief Inspector Terry Balding, Local Policing Support Unit, Essex Police, said:
“I’m delighted we’ve been able to reach this agreement. It’s an important step forward in our ongoing efforts to tackle hare coursing and rid our rural areas of this cruel blood sport.
“Hare coursing is a priority here in Essex and to help us achieve significant gains in this area, our Rural Engagement Team has increased: we now have two sergeants and 10 officers tackling coursing and other rural crimes that blight our rural communities and threaten the livelihoods of farmers.”
The agreement effectively means that anyone caught committing anti-social behaviour (ASB) related to coursing, say in Norfolk, would be seen as also committing this in Essex.
“If the same person were to carry on their behaviour in Kent, proactive measures can take place using ASB legislation, and if that same person was to continue for a third time, in say Bedfordshire, a prosecution can commence – alongside any other action - as a result of earlier behaviour.
“It means that if someone is involved in three incidents of ASB linked to hare coursing they will be prosecuted, irrespective of which area they commit the offences in.
“The subsequent prosecution would then allow officers to apply for court orders following conviction. These can include driving disqualifications, Criminal Behaviour Orders, the forfeiture of assets - for example dogs and vehicles.”
Hare coursing traditionally begins in September when the fields have been harvested and ploughed, making them the perfect ground for the illegal blood sport. Hare coursing causes damage to crops, harms animal welfare and threatens the rural community. It can result in intimidation and even violence.
Landowners are urged to consider blocking entrances to their fields with ditches, fencing or trees or even barriers like barrels filled with concrete.
Anyone who sees hare coursing taking place is asked to contact police immediately on 999 and provide officers with a description of the people involved, any registration numbers, vehicle descriptions and the location and direction of travel. Its important people don’t confront hare coursers or put themselves at risk.
If you have information about hare coursing and it’s not currently happening, or have been a victim of the crime, please call 101 or report online at www.essex.police.uk