Illegal hare coursers face a zero tolerance response from Suffolk police this winter.
Suffolk is joining Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire in Operation Gallileo — a ‘pro-active campaign’ against coursers.
Launching it in a stubble field near Stowmarket last Friday, Assistant Chief Constable Tim Newcomb said: “It’s about getting officers into rural communities and saying to hare coursers ‘we’re ready for you’.”
The Hunting With Dogs act made it illegal, with a £5,000 maximum fine, and gave police powers to crush vehicles. But ACC Newcomb said incidents have been increasing and 300 were reported in 2012.
“This isn’t a sport, it’s a criminal offence,” he added. “We can point to numerous cases where other offences have been committed, including violence.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore promised to ensure officers had the necessary equipment.
He said: “We’re in discussions with Land Rover to get our teams equipped with the right vehicles.”
Edward vere Nicoll, the Country Land and Business Association’s regional vice chairman, said: “Hare coursing is organised crime — they’re not a nice bunch. They think nothing of threatening land owners.”
He said gangs in 4x4s also damage hedges and crops.
Rachael Carrington, the National Farmers’ Union ‘s Suffolk advisor, said: “People think hare coursing is hare coursing, but it’s all the violence associated with it.”