Rural criminals are increasingly turning to the dark web to place bets on how many animals they can kill and bid on exploited dogs, police and countryside business leaders have warned.
The CLA yesterday hosted Rural Crime - Take Back Control! at its marquee at the Great Yorkshire Show, with the body’s president Tim Breitmeyer and North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan addressing the audience.
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Mr Breitmeyer told the crowd how the dark web was being used in relation to rural crimes such as hare coursing.
The dark web is an online network that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable, enabling criminals to operate.
Speaking afterwards Ms Mulligan, who is also chairwoman of the National Rural Crime Network, said: “There are criminals betting between themselves on the number of animals they can kill.”
She added that the culprits are buying and selling dogs on the dark web.
“Some of those dogs are extremely valuable, some of them going for about £20,000.”
Such animals can also be very expensive for police to place in kennels, she added.
And tactics police use to deal with the dogs include “filling them up,” she said.
Ms Mulligan said that intelligence shows that some of those using the dark web for such activities are linked to wider organised crime.
Speaking about how NYP cybercrime police are looking into the issue, she said: “It’s growing and it’s something that we will need to continue.”
Mr Breitmeyer told The Yorkshire Post that the issue is “not going away” and spoke of his own experience of confronting hare coursers.
“They really don’t care who they hurt.
“They’re vicious criminals. I’ve myself been on the bonnet of a car and had to back out on a Sunday morning.”
He added: “You can’t challenge them for fear of your safety and also it’s a very serious problem that’s only getting worse.”
During the event, Ms Mulligan also spoke of how domestic violence is being under-reported in rural communities.
She said: “It is a very hidden issue. We know from the statistics that the rates of domestic abuse in rural areas per head of the population are the same as urban areas, but there is half the amount of reporting in rural communities, and it’s a very uncomfortable thing for people to talk about.
“I live in a rural community near Skipton, a very small village, and I know how difficult it is for us to talk about these sorts of things, but talk about it we need to do.”
“Significant” research on domestic abuse in rural areas will be released next week, she said.
Flytipping was also on the agenda at the event. Ms Mulligan said: “It is one of the only crimes where literally the victim has to pay to have it all cleared up and it is not good enough. The status quo is not good enough at the moment.”