Criminals target UK beauty spots

The respondents said they had begun targeting busy rural locations such as popular beauty spots or walking routes, taking advantage of the influx of strangers and lack of CCTV.

During the months popular with tourists, village festivals were named as "opportune events" to scope out potential targets for theft. At quieter times of the year, some criminals said they would disguise themselves to blend in, often posing as delivery drivers or mechanics by wearing overalls and carrying a toolbox.

Another typical tactic detailed was to take on petty tasks for farmers and village-dwellers, such as vermin control or minor maintenance to build trust within countryside communities, but use the time to scout the area for opportunities.

The type of help volunteered by the criminals interviewed differed depending on the time of year, with general maintenance work offered in January and February, pest control in Spring and crop picking work from August to October.

For the more organised criminals interviewed, agricultural diesel and heating oil was named as the key theft target. For smaller scale or opportunistic criminals, tools inside garages and sheds were popular, along with metal.

Richard Percy, Chairman of NFU Mutual said: "It is a sad fact, but countryside communities face an on-going fight against crime. Many farmers and country dwellers have spent time and money on upping security measures to protect homes and businesses from such criminals.

"As a mutual organisation with a vested interest in the countryside, we’re helping to raise awareness of such trends, liaising closely with the police and community groups to help them beat rural crime.

"It’s all about taking small steps to make life much harder for criminals. Making outbuildings more secure is an effective deterrent and taking the time to mark more valuable items will make it much easier to trace thieves and return property to the rightful owner should it ever be stolen."

Stefan Fafinski, from the Criminologists Invenio Research, said: "Criminals operating out of the countryside seem to be using more considered and manipulative tactics in order to scope out potential targets.

"Counter-intuitively, these criminals seem to prefer days when there were more people around to avoid looking suspicious – particularly in popular car parks near beauty spots."

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