Security mark your metal – that’s the message to New Forest businesses and residents following a recent rise in rural crime.

Lead roofing and flashing, metal gates, pipework, drain covers, and cable containing copper have all been targeted by thieves in the district as the price of metal has increased dramatically.

The Safer New Forest Partnership urges local householders and rural businesses to consider security marking their property and taking other measures to avoid becoming a victim of metal theft.

Hampshire Police asks the public to look out for any suspicious behaviour involving metal, such as people digging up cables or anybody on rooftops, especially at night, and to report it immediately.

New Forest Country Watch Sergeant Louise Hubble said: “”It is important that we all work together in disrupting this type of criminal activity, and we encourage people to talk to us whenever they have information that may be useful in identifying offenders and preventing further offences. Please report any suspicious activity; we take your calls seriously.

“We want metal thieves to know that we, as a whole community, will not tolerate their actions.”

Security marking property with a product such as Smartwater  is a real deterrent to thieves. SmartWater is virtually impossible to remove completely from metals and other items. Regular checks at scrap yards make it increasingly difficult for thieves to sell on stolen metal.

SmartWater can prove the ownership of an item and has 100 per cent conviction rate when used as evidence in court.

Other security measures recommended by Safer New Forest include:

  • Security lighting deters intruders, lights up vulnerable areas and alerts you to anyone trying to get on to the roof. Consider Passive Infra-Red Detector lighting (PIR), which operates by sensing movement.
  • CCTV with adequate monitoring and recording, accompanied with warning signs around the site.
  • Perimeter fencing and gates should be adequate to prevent intruders breaking through – check for holes or weak spots that might give access. Plant prickly shrubs around the perimeter fence.
  • Keep gates locked and restrict vehicle access to your property. Remove any means of transporting metal away, such as wheelie bins and wheelbarrows.
  • Remove anything left outdoors that could be used by thieves to gain access to the roof – ladders, water butts, garden furniture. Store ladders in a secure building.
  • Consider applying anti-climb paint to drainpipes and roof guttering, making climbing difficult for offenders. It should only be applied above 2.4 metres from the ground.

New Forest Chief Inspector Tony Rowlinson said: “I urge everybody who lives or works in the New Forest to be vigilant to any suspicious behaviour, whether it is in the middle of the day or under cover of darkness. Metal theft is a huge problem nationally and here in the New Forest, it is vital that you report any incidents immediately – dial 999 in an emergency or use 101 at other times.”

The Safer New Forest Partnership also supports the Immobilise website  where you can register property, such as garden furniture and bikes for free. The police then use this information to reunite stolen items with its owner.