A controversial clampdown on suspected poachers in South Tyneside by armed police is a hare-brained idea, according to Gazette readers.
Many have swamped our Facebook social media page to brand the plan ‘overkill’ – and warned the scheme could end in tragedy.
The Gazette reported on Monday that police are planning call in armed support as an option in response to incidents around farms.
Northumbria Police says there has been a rise in land and crops damaged in a stretch of countryside between Whitburn and South Shields.
They suspect people out lamping – the night-time shooting of animals with the aid of strong spotlights – and hunting are to blame.
Officers have carried out patrols to catch culprits and gather evidence.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “Our firearms officers carry out core policing patrols throughout the force every day. They are a flexible resource available for use in a multitude of situations, and not just firearms related incidents.
“As such we often deploy them to support our neighbourhood and 24/7 teams. On this occasion they have been briefed to assist within their regular patrols, but have not been deployed within their firearms role.
Gazette readers say deploying armed units would be a step too far.
Reader Peter Watt said he fears somene could mistakenly be shot.
In a post on our Facebook site, he said: “It’ll be kids running around with 22 air rifles.”
Darren Smith said: “Armed police protecting farms and fields of people lamping – waste of taxpayers’ money. Get on the streets and protect us from the real problems – terrorists.”
Claire Little added: “Total waste of taxpayers’ money. Ridiculous.”
David Orr said: “Armed response officers are around us 24-hours a day. Can’t actually believe people think they are going to be wandering around Whitburn at night, trying to catch a few blokes shooting rabbits.”
But the plan, supported by Marsden and Whitburn councillor Tracey Dixon, won backing from Pete Davies.
He said: “I think if I was a police officer tasked with investigating crimes that involved people hunting with guns, I’d like the reassurance of armed officers too.”
Graham Henderson added: “So if you lived in an isolated farm and there’s people running around with guns, wouldn’t you phone the police? Think about it.”