RURAL crime and pickpockets were the target of crime prevention sessions held in Highworth and Castle Eaton yesterday.

Over recent weeks there has been a rise in pickpocketing and the theft of heavy garden ornaments.

Wiltshire Police are keen to stress the importance of personal safety and making sure belongings are firmly secured in order to prevent such crimes.

PCSO Juliet Evans led the rural crime prevention sessions and said the problem of pickpocketscan be avoided.

“We have come out to two crime prevention sessions in Castle Eaton and Highworth to focus on rural crime,” she said.

“There has been a good response, and even if you get a few people it could be one less potential victim.

“Unfortunately, at the moment we are having a spate of pickpockets targeting bags and purses.

“There have been a few recorded in the Green-bridge and Stratton areas, mainly around the supermarkets.

“People will watch for potential victims, follow them and attempt to distract them or wait for the right moment.

“People can fight this by putting on lanyards which can be scured to the bag and the person, but people also should be vigilant about people around them.

“This happens mainly in crowded areas or with people coming close at hand, so the message is not to advertise your bag.

“People can get distracted very easily by someone while another grabs some belongings.”

Other issues being responded to by rural crime teams include the theft of large stones from gardens and the irresponsible use of air rifles.

“In rural areas at the moment we are having a spike in staddle stone thefts from people’s gardens, which look a bit like mushrooms,” said PCSO Evans. “In one village we have had four cases recently, and there would have to be some pretty strong people involved to lift these things.

“The general message is always to keep everything locked up, because there have been a lot of power tools and equipment stolen, along with vehicles being broken into.

“We would encourage everyone to get their equipment marked, and there is a system called CESAR which can be used to mark industrial equipment, which has also been targeted recently.

“If anyone wants to arrange a free bike marking session all they need to do is contact their local neighbourhood policing team on 101.

“Failing that always make a note of your serial number because there are so many bicycles we can’t return because we simply don’t know who they belong to.”