A CAMPAIGN group has urged landowners to be vigilant this winter in the wake of hare coursing incidents in Suffolk this month.

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The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said there had been an increase in calls over the past few weeks regarding suspicious vehicles on farm land.

In one high profile case, a man was driven at by a car and hit after confronting hare coursers on his land in Hitcham, near Stowmarket.

The 62-year-old farmer had to be taken to hospital with a bruised back and a cut hand. On the same day there were numerous reports of hare coursers operating across Suffolk. Police said their investigation into the Hitcham incident was still ongoing.

CLA east regional director Nicola Currie, who lives in Hitcham, said: “Hare coursers are vicious criminals. It is a highly-organised crime based on illegal betting, with very large sums of money changing hands.

“The offenders are likely to operate in remote areas where they can video the event, streaming it back to a location, often across the county boundary.

“The CLA meets with each county police force annually and we know that Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire are currently having a clampdown on hare coursing.

“The consequence is that we are now seeing an increasing number of incidents in Suffolk, a county which used to have the problem under control.”

More than 60 farmers met with police and the CLA in Stowmarket this week to discuss how to tackle hare coursing.

Suffolk’s assistant chief constable Tim Newcomb said: “Hare coursers are criminals and give no consideration to landowners’ property and crops.

“They often have a sophisticated information network and knowledge of rural areas and they invariably know about vulnerable properties in the area, short cuts, and escape routes.

“Their actions mean that rural communities can often feel very intimidated.”

He said police want landowners and members of the public to report any activity they think may be suspicious.

Police advice is for people not to approach hare coursers but to call them immediately on 999.

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