Poaching has become the 'number one rural crime issue' in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire Police has vowed to crack down on poaching as it has become the force’s “number one rural crime issue”.

The latest figures show 1,351 poaching incidents were recorded in North Yorkshire between April 2020 and May 2021 and police say the impact of the crime on rural communities “can’t be underestimated”.

The force’s Rural Taskforce is targeting poachers and hare coursers as part of Operation Figaro, and working with other police forces to develop a coordinated approach to tackling these criminals as part of Operation Galileo.

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Alex Butterfield, chief inspector of specialist operations, said poaching had become the force’s “number one rural crime issue”, and revealed that poachers favour flatter areas, such as Hambleton and Richmondshire, and tend to be active between August and March.

North Yorkshire Police officers on patrol as part of Operation Figaro

“There are threats of violence, intimidation, damage to crops and gates – the impact of that can be absolutely shocking to the public,” he told a public accountability meeting yesterday.

“We need to put that effective response in place.

“These criminals are prepared to travel very long distances, sometimes across the entire country to pursue what they see as a hobby.

“We have a local approach, Operation Figaro, that is identifying who of those participating in hare coursing and poaching are our high-harm offenders and identifying and disrupting their activities.”

The chief inspector said 29 people are due to appear in court after they were caught poaching in North Yorkshire over the last year and officers are now using anti-social behaviour legislation to “tackle and displace offenders”.

“At a national level at the moment there are proposed changes to legislation and the potential introduction of new powers that will make tackling this particular crime more effective,” he said.

“At the moment we are having to take a different approach and use social behaviour legislation.”

He also urged rural communities in North Yorkshire to remain vigilant, work with police and report any suspicious behaviour.