Avon and Somerset invests in dedicated rural crime drone
Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s Rural Affairs Unit has invested in dedicated drone to assist officers in preventing and detecting rural crime, including wildlife crime such as hare coursing.
The unit has recently undergone training to operate the drone, which will utilise thermal imaging to track offenders in isolated areas after dark.
Hare coursing, which involves setting dogs to chase hares, often takes place on land that has been entered illegally and can cause considerable harm to property, crops and livestock.
The practice was banned in the UK by the Hunting Act 2004 but illegal activity remains prevalent, particularly following the August harvest and during the autumn months.
Somerset Area Commander Dickon Turner said: “We know that many instances of hare coursing and other rural crimes go unreported as landowners believe they won’t be taken seriously. But we’re aware of the devastating effects of these offences, and the fact they are often linked to wider organised crime.
“Our investment in new technology is giving us far greater capability to catch offenders, but we can only do this when suspicious activity is reported to us. We’re hopeful that the drone will further strengthen our links with our rural communities, enhance our capability to prevent crime and build a clearer picture of organised crime groups’ activities.”
The new drone will also play a key role in crime prevention, allowing the unit to offer surveys to repeat victims of rural crime to identify potential areas of weakness on their land which may make them a target for criminals.
Proposed changes in the law brought in by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, including the introduction of the offence of ‘going equipped’ for hare coursing, will give police additional powers to target offenders.
Claire Wright, CLA (Country Land and Business Association) Rural Surveyor for Somerset said: “This type of rural crime, which often involves high-stakes illegal betting, causes thousands of pounds worth of damage to land and crops and sees many rural communities intimidated. Many of our members live in fear of being targeted as we know how vicious the people that take part in this type of rural crime can be and it is encouraging that Avon and Somerset Rural Affairs Unit now has state of the art technology to help detect this crime in action.
“Together with the recent announcement stating Government has pledged to crack down on illegal hare coursing with the introduction of new legislation, meaning police and the courts will have greater power to tackle offenders in the field, remove the tools of their trade and impose stiffer penalties at conviction is incredibly encouraging. We have been lobbying for many years for greater punishment for the perpetrators of hare coursing.”