Cambridgeshire police has re-formed its Rural Crime Action Team following a “massive surge” in hare coursing in the county.

Cambridgeshire police has re-formed its Rural Crime Action Team following a “massive surge” in hare coursing in the county.

Incidents of hare coursing have soared from 241 cases between December 2012 and November 2013, to more than 700 from December 2014 to November last year.

Chief Inspector James Sutherland said: “Our goals are simple - we want to drive hare coursing out of Cambridgeshire, reduce the financial cost of rural crime and let those in the rural community know that we are behind them.”

Coursing is the pursuit of a hare or hares by dogs and is done by sight, not scent.

Ch Insp Sutherland says the increase is due to mild wet weather, an increase in hares, and the presence of coursing groups on social media.

“If you go on Facebook you will find a large number of groups, and word had gone round that Cambridgeshire police had gone soft on hare coursing.”

The team was disbanded in 2011, but rural officers were still in place and made progress on bringing down other rural crime.

Incidents of rural crime cost Cambridgeshire £2.4 million in 2013, according to an estimate by NFU Mutual, but this was reduced to £1.7 million by 2014.

And, despite the disbandment of the team, more than 400 frontline officers were trained to help rural communities.

Chf Insp Sutherland said: “This only took us so far and was not effective in dealing with the massive surge in hare coursing. It was not a case of ignoring rural crime.”

Another issue with hare coursing though, is the impact it has on the community.

“Hare coursing is not just about the damage to drilled crops, but there is also violence and intimidation involved.

“For those living in rural communities there's an exacerbated feeling of fear and isolation. I lived out on a small farm and it's very dark out there and you become aware of how vulnerable you are.”

Other rural crime includes the stealing of specialist equipment, like tractors, but smaller machinery like all-terrain vehicles and quad bikes are also being targeted.

“If heavy machinery is insured that's not the issue,” Chf Insp Sutherland continued.

“The issue is that farmers only have a narrow window of time in the year to get certain jobs done. If something gets stolen in the harvest it not just causes a financial loss, but it can take weeks to get a replacement.”

Fuel theft, cyber-crime and the stealing of specialist GPS units are other problems in rural areas, and some navigation systems can cost £10,000.

Led by a sergeant, the re-formed crime team will have five police constables, a detective constable, a PCSO and two special constables.

The team is working closely with Countryside Watch, the National Farmers Union, and the Country and Business Association, with representatives from each network having joined officers for the team's launch on April 1.

The team is encouraging farmers to become members of Countryside Watch, as well as asking them to use CESAR data tags; triangular ID plates which protect farm equipment.

Chf Insp Sutherland added: “It has been massively successful. If it is tagged it's considerably less likely to be stolen and more likely to be recovered if it is.”

For others in rural communities, police recommend joining neighbourhood watch schemes, eCops or taking the 'Bad Wolf' online test to measure home security.

To take the test and for more advice, visit proprofs.com/quiz-school/quizshow.php?title=bad-wolf_3OE&q=1