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Neighbourhood Watch

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Suffolk Constabulary, in conjunction with other partners, is demonstrating the potential consequences for offenders who are caught hare-coursing.

The force is warning that strong action against those involved in this illegal activity will be taken, with one potential outcome that any vehicles used could be seized and crushed.

Anyone convicted of the offence can receive a fine of up to £5,000 by a magistrates’ court. Hare coursing is a blood-sport where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares. It is illegal in the UK under the Hunting Act 2004, which makes it an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs.  Legislation also gives police the powers to seize and detain vehicles until the court hearing.  Powers to seize vehicles may also be granted under section 30 of the Game Act 1831.

Hare coursers typically become active as large tracts of land are left without standing crops. During this period, offenders are known to travel to Suffolk from around the country to hunt hares with dogs.

Reports of hare coursing have been increasing in recent years, although in Suffolk during the period 1 September 2019 to 31 March 2020 there were 139 incidents reported, while so far this year since the start of September last year there have been 80.

Under the banner of Operation Galileo forces from across the country work together sharing information and intelligence on hare coursers planning to trespass on farmland.

Sgt Brian Calver from the Suffolk Rural Crime and Wildlife Team said: "Hare coursing is a huge issue for farmers and landowners with many people living in fear of these criminals. This illegal activity damages property, threatens people's incomes and subjects people to fear and intimidation.

"Many of those are very unpleasant with violent and unscrupulous backgrounds, many of whom have links to organised criminality. Significant sums of money can change hands in the form of illegal betting and gambling on the outcome."

Members of the public who witness hare coursing taking place are advised not to approach the participants but to phone police immediately on 999.

Signs to spot:
4x4 vehicles with dogs, particularly if they are being driven around fields.
They may be seen driving slowly or parked on verges, field entrances. Sometimes they’ll park up on the edge of fields - away from public rights of way, to try and avoid being seen.
Estate cars could also be used or professionally sign written vans, so nothing should be discounted, if it looks out of place.
Traditionally offenders walk in a line across a field with their dogs, to flush hares, before releasing the hounds.
They will always use sight hounds, such as greyhounds, salukis and Lurcher types.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said, "Suffolk is particularly vulnerable to hare-coursers due to our wonderful open spaces and population of brown hares so it is very important to make it clear that this despicable behaviour will not be tolerated in our beautiful county.

"I am very proud that Suffolk Constabulary continues to invest in the team of dedicated rural and wildlife officers working in the Neighbourhood Partnership teams across the county. This team focuses on crimes such as livestock rustling, metal and oil thefts and wildlife crime and takes strong action against those involved in hare coursing. These dedicated rural crime officers also offer specialist advice to all other officers to ensure there is a good force-wide understanding of crime specific to our rural communities.”

NFU County Adviser Charles Hesketh said: "Hare coursing is a serious problem in the countryside, which leaves farmers feeling isolated, desperate and powerless to stop coursers trespassing on their land. As well as the illegal killing of wildlife, coursers damage crops, hedges and gates and they are prepared to use violence and intimidation against farmers if challenged.
 
"Police in Suffolk are taking action and have had a number of success recently in catching offenders, but we want the legislation strengthened to help them tackle hare coursing. This includes amendments to make it easier for the police to seize dogs from coursers and for the courts to impose tougher penalties.”

Country Land and Business Association Regional Surveyor Tim Woodward said:
"Those involved in this crime are hardened criminals who will not think twice about threatening and intimidating anyone who attempts to stop them from pursuing this illegal activity. Our members regularly tell us how they have had crops damaged and fences, gates and hedges vandalised as hare coursers gain access to fields. The animal welfare concerns of this activity are also extremely worrying.

"Strengthened legislation that would allow for tougher punishments for those caught hare coursing would help ensure there is a more effective deterrent to stop this criminal activity from taking place, which is currently widespread across the East of England.”

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Suffolk Constabulary is warning pet owners to take extra care after seeing a number of dog thefts this year. Sergeant Brian Calver said: "Organised crime groups are actively targeting addresses, with working breeds tending to be those that are favoured by criminals. "The loss of any pet can be devastating to owners, with the added trauma of not knowing what sort of conditions the dog is being subjected to. We would advise dog owners to review security of any outdoor kennels.” 

There have been 12 confirmed cases where dogs have been stolen within the county in 2020, and Sgt Calver said all bar one of the incidents involved the theft of dogs that would be classed as working gun breeds. 

Security measures to prevent thefts include good quality locks and lighting, while consideration should be given to CCTV and sensors as these offer an early alert to the presence of intruders.  

Gardens should be well secured with fencing or hedges, while gates should be kept locked.  

Owners are advised not to leave dogs out in open gardens and yards when they are not at home and, if possible, they should be brought into the house overnight.  

Ensure your dog is chipped and, if neutered, mark the dog’s tag as such as this makes them less attractive to thieves that may want to steal them for breeding. When out walking, if you let your dog off the lead, don’t allow it to leave your sight. 

Sgt Calver also advised dog owners to ensure they were not giving away personal details online. He said: "Consider your security on social media and avoid giving away details that may highlight your address and the fact you have a dog which could be attractive to thieves. We would encourage you to be vigilant of suspicious persons seen around addresses, or any cold callers. Please report such activity, with descriptions of the individuals and their vehicles, as well as sharing those concerns on local watch groups.” 

Sgt Calver also urged owners of other pets to be wary of thieves, saying birds had been stolen too. 

Anybody with any information regarding the theft of dogs or other pets is encouraged to contact Suffolk police via: 

Website: http://www.suffolk.police.uk/contact-us/existing-report-update

or

Crimestoppers – Contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111, or via their online form: www.crimestoppers-uk.org

or

Phone – call 101 

Please note in the event of an emergency you should always call 999. 

General crime prevention advice can be found by visiting www.suffolk.police.uk/advice/crime-prevention-z

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Suffolk Police would like to remind residents during the spring/summer season to regularly check that their garden gates, sheds, garages, outbuildings and barns are locked and secure.  

This follows a number of burglaries and attempted burglaries of sheds, garages & outbuildings in various locations across the County.

In many cases, various gardening equipment such as ride-on lawnmowers, push lawnmowers, strimmers, hedge trimmers, electrical equipment, tools etc have been stolen.

We recommend that all property is security marked, insured, secured and locked away after being used.   

Security advice can be found on our website under 1st Principle for Shed/garage security and property marking guidance (see links below). 

We also would like to remind residents that often, tools left out can also be used to commit other crimes such as dwelling burglaries.

Find 1st Principle Security advice on the Suffolk Police webpage www.suffolk.police.uk  or via this link http://www.suffolk.police.uk/sites/suffolk/files/shedandgaragesecurity1.pdf  

Register serial numbers of tools and equipment via Immobilise https://www.immobilise.com/  and make a personal record.  This will help identify items if they are found, and speed up the process of returning items to the owners.

A list of security products can be viewed via - http://www.suffolk.police.uk/sites/suffolk/files/security_product_brochure.pdf


 Click here for the most recent newsletter from Suffolk Constabulary

Police are urging members of the public to consider installing extra crime prevention measures such as CCTV, security lighting and doorbell cameras as a way to help make their properties more secure. See below

Visit http://www.suffolk.police.uk/advice/home-safety for further home security advice.

Phone: Crimestoppers – 0800 555 111, or via their online form: www.crimestoppers-uk.org

Phone – Call 101

Please note in the event of an emergency you should always call 999

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