THE Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is warning people in rural areas to review their security arrangements now darkness is arriving early and with it a greater opportunity for thieves.

CLA Midlands regional director Caroline Bedell said: "Each year we seem to experience an increase in crime in the countryside almost as soon as the clocks go back and I suspect that this year will be no different.

“Anything that can be sold is a prime target and thefts range from scrap metal, gates and tools to tractors and livestock. Criminals will also take advantage of the darkness to carry out fly-tipping.

“Rural areas can provide rich and easy pickings and there is no shortage of criminals willing to exploit this. Crime in rural areas takes many forms and is made easier for the perpetrator by the relative isolation of homes and businesses, a maze of county lanes unmonitored by CCTV, lack of street lighting, miles of legal public access close to properties and low visible police presence.

“Freedom of movement and the free availability of information makes both planning and escape all the easier.

“Simple steps can be taken, such as not leaving tools lying around, keys in vehicles and sheds unlocked. Make sure key areas and access routes are well lit. If you have any doubts, consider investing in modern security equipment - much is possible with new technology.”

She added: “If you feel you would benefit from further help, contact the crime prevention officer at your local police station or talk to a specialist security company and please, if you see crime, report it.”