Thieves who prey on cars parked at beauty spots on the Marlborough Downs have started early this year, say police.

The raiders, who make rich pickings from handbags and valuable items supposedly hidden under car seats or in boots, usually wait until the wintry weather has cleared before striking.

However thefts have already been reported from cars parked at Walkers Hill at Alton Barnes, Savernake Forest and in the lay by at Silbury Hill.

PC Richard Barratt, policing team manager for Pewsey, said: “As you’ll know every year as the weather improves we start to see a rise in vehicle crime, particularly around our beauty spot areas.

“Unfortunately, it has already started this year and we are keen to get a grip on it early and to target it hard over the next few months.”

PC Barratt said most of the crime occurred because motorists were continuing to ignore warnings and posters put up at beauty spots and still store valuable items in their cars.

Sgt Ben Braine, senior officer for Marlborough and Pewsey, said: “The beauty spot thieves have started early this year and we hope this is not a harbinger for increased activity by them in the months ahead.”

The sergeant said the police rural crime team would be augmenting the patrols by local officers to try to catch the crooks.