Lincolnshire Police is sending a message to gangs of hare coursers terrorising farming families in South Holland with a £100,000 investment in new transport.
A fleet of nine 4x4 Ford Kugas, due to arrive later this year, is the first step in a new Rural Policing Strategy for Lincolnshire to be unveiled by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Marc Jones this summer.
The plan will see more Special Constables and volunteers working in rural communities, crime prevention advice for farmers and their families and better protection for victims of hare coursing and other rural crime.
Mr Jones said: “This is a natural progression from me having stated during my election campaign to be PCC, and on being elected, a promise to look at rural issues.
“The work that Deputy Commissioner Stuart Tweedale has done with me as part of the National Rural Crime Network, along with other discussions we’ve had, has led me to believe that I need to have a clear strategy and plan in order to hold the police in Lincolnshire to account.
“It’s important to have a strategy and it would be weird for a very rural county like Lincolnshire not to have one so that I can measure how the police are achieving it.”
This is a natural progression from me having stated during my election campaign to be PCC, and on being elected, a promise to look at rural issuesMarc Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire
Mr Jones, who confirmed that both he and Mr Tweedale are standing down as Lincolnshire County Council members at the May 4 elections, said he hoped the new strategy would be “a lot more ambitious” than the specialist Operation Galileo team disbanded in September 2015.
Mr Jones said: “We’re investing in a fleet of Ford Kugas that are designed specifically for police use and, in financial terms, in excess of £100,000 will be spent on them.
“Once we have the strategy, it will be up to the Chief Constable to decide how best to deploy police resources and part of that will be to have people dealing with hare coursing if that is what he decides.
“But I think we can do something that’s a little more ambitious that the old Operation Galileo team, including heritage crime, fuel thefts and everything else.”
Mr Jones hopes the strategy will be ready in time for a meeting of senior police officers, farmers and NFU members planned for Boston in June.
It is a repeat of a meeting at Boston West Golf Club in February when Bill Skelly, Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, met county farmers for the first time.
After the meeting, Mr Skelly said: “I sympathise with members of the farming community, understand their frustration and accept this is damaging their livelihood.
“It isn’t acceptable and I am taking this matter very seriously.
“We have already committed more officers to tackling this, we will look at the way we gather information and use it, also considering how we collaborate with other forces and also explore new technologies.
“We may not stop the problem completely but I am confident farmers will see a change for the better in the near future.”
The new Rural Policing Strategy was welcomed by John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, who said: “I had a very positive meeting with the PCC recently, discussing a range of issues around rural crime.
“In particular, this relates to hare coursing and I made it very clear that we needed to do something decisive about the circumstances surrounding it as it has reached unprecedented proportions in the last five years.
“The Commissioner is quite keen to tackle this and take steps in the form of a Rural Policing Strategy.”