UK: Drones help arrest three men for hare hunting

Police drones helped catch three men who were trespassing on private farmland in rural Cleveland in the UK last week.

The drones were part of a night operation conducted various sections of the Cleveland constabulary, which included NPT officers, Matrix Team colleagues, Special Constabulary volunteers and a rural volunteer.

“Three males caught hare coursing on private farmland were detained by officers with the help of a police drone operator,” said Cleveland Police in a statement.

“They were issued with Community Protection Warning letters and one of them also received a warning for possession of cannabis.”

Hare coursing. It is a practice where people use dogs to hunt and kill hare; and that caught our attention because – growing up in rural Africa – we just knew the practice as hunting.

And at no time did we think it was illegal; and arresting a person for hunting in rural Africa will certainly be met with surprised confusion.

But game hunting is illegal though; not only in the UK, but in almost all countries in Africa. At it is illegal, unless one has a licence.

By law in several countries, all wildlife belongs to the state, and it is illegal to hunt it without authorisation from local parks and wildlife authorities.

Add fishing to that too.

It was not immediately clear whether the men were hunting for sport, or if they were craving hare meat.

It was not their lucky night though; as they became the latest statistics of suspects to be apprehended with the direct help of policing drones.

Another man also received a Community Protection Warning letter regarding an earlier hare coursing incident.

The police held the operation as a way to reassure rural farmers and residents in the area with police visibility. Well over 40 farms were covered and officers took the chance to engage with farmers and discuss any issues and concerns.

The operation also prioritised areas affected by poaching and nuisance motorbikes and quads.

“This was another very successful night’s activity which allowed us to provide reassurance, gather intelligence and take action against those intent on causing crime or ASB in rural areas,” Cleveland Police’s force lead for rural crime, Chief Inspector Jon Hagen said.

“I hope last week’s campaign and our ongoing work under Operation Checkpoint helps everyone who lives and works rurally feel they have a voice, that police are listening to their concerns and, more importantly, taking action.”

Having first launched the eyes in the sky in January 2020, Cleveland now has eleven drones in its fleet and 26 current drone licenced pilots, with 14 more officers being trained in police drone use.

Last June, the drones were instrumental in the arrest of off-road bikes in Redcar and Cleveland; after being called upon by Greater Eston and Guisbrough NPT officers to identify and keep a lock onto suspicious bikes and riders to give right directions to officers on the ground.

Four bikes were seized in just a few hours.

The police added that their new drones have a raft of increased capabilities including increased flying time, ability to fly in windier conditions and in rain, and an amazing x 200 zoom (optical and digital zoom combined) including thermal and the ability to smart track both vehicles and people.

“The heat sensing camera helps officers to search large areas very quickly, such as woodlands, which is more efficient and uses less officer time,” the police say.

“There is also live feeds into control room, so senior police officers managing incidents can see images as things unfold.”

One of the very first deployments Cleveland police drone took was in response to ongoing reports of suspected poaching near to Redmarshall and Stillington Villages, in January 2020.

Cleveland Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Graham said; “Adopting drones is the next step for us in tackling crime. Not only can they be in the air within minutes, the images can be used to help direct officers on the ground, which is really important when we look for missing people.

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