Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Thieves target village festivals

Some thieves build the trust of local farmers and village-dwellers by helping out with vermin control or minor maintenance work

Thieves are targeting visitors and residents at UK beauty spots by adopting false identities and identifying victims at busy village festivals, a study has revealed.

They also build the trust of local farmers and village-dwellers by helping out with vermin control or minor maintenance work before committing crimes.

The study, led by criminologist researchers, revealed the tactics used by thieves now awaiting sentence for rural theft. These include taking advantage of the lack of CCTV and tourists unfamiliar with rural areas.

One burglar interviewed for the study said: "If the farmer thinks we're helping out, we'll come back. He'll get to trust us, while all the time we're looking around to see what's there."

The criminals also dubbed village festivals "opportune events" for theft and said they would often wear overalls and carry a toolbox to pose as delivery drivers and mechanics during the quieter months.

One thief said that during busy periods the influx of strangers meant locals did not notice him. He called it a "hidden in plain sight" tactic.

Stefan Fafinski, from the Invenio Research, who interviewed the thieves, 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."

The research, sponsored by NFU Mutual, revealed that the type of help volunteered by rural criminals differed depending on the time of year.

General maintenance work was typically offered in January and February, pest control in the spring and crop picking work from August to October. For the more organised criminals interviewed, agricultural diesel and heating oil were named as key theft targets.