NOVEMBER 14, 2009: A crime prevention scheme to protect farms and smallholdings in Somerset is being hailed a success in keeping thieves at bay.

The Rural Watch on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills scheme has proved so successful that no farm or smallholding that has joined the project has since been targeted. Now smallholders in other parts of the country are being encouraged to find out if there is a similar scheme in their area. PC Nick Wood, the beat manager for the Dulverton area, is a smallholder himself, and a reader of Country Smallholding. He contacted the magazine to explain how the Rural Watch scheme works. He said: “Exmoor has suffered in the past from plant and tool thefts from farms. Smallholdings have suffered with thefts of petrol strimmers, electric fencing kits and even poultry. “The isolated location of properties and fields can make them a target for the opportunist theft. Many smallholders have land that is not attached to their property, and this can sometimes make them more vulnerable.” PC Wood said Avon and Somerset Constabulary developed Rural Watch after a suggestion by a rural beat manager. “From this idea came the need to mark property to prove ownership when it is later recovered. In the past, we were able to recover property from a crime but could rarely trace the owner or be able to prove ownership. “Rural Watch letters are sent to farms and properties inviting them to participate in the scheme. We visit the farm or smallholding and mark the property using various methods, such as engraving and ultra-violet pens. “Photographs are taken of all the marked property and a photo disc is given to the smallholder. The police keep a second disc after placing the details on a secure database. “The smallholding is provided with Rural Watch laminated posters to warn potential thieves that the property is marked and traceable. “The scheme has proved very successful. To date, no farms or smallholdings participating in the scheme have been repeat victims of theft.” * For more information about crime prevention in rural areas contact your local Constabulary. If you live in Somerset, contact PC Nick Wood on 0845 456 7000.