Criminals travelling north from England to target farms and other rural properties are a growing problem in the Borders, according to the region’s police chief.
English crooks are driving up over the border and using increasingly sophisticated techniques to steal vehicles and other belongings, chief inspector Stuart Reid told last Friday’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s police and fire safety board.
“There is a structural patrol matrix that we do in the area, and all of the major arterial routes in the Borders are covered,” said Mr Reid, area commander for the Borders since the start of the year.
“We do try to be a travelling deterrent to criminals travelling from other areas.
“We are live to the intelligence that says we are being visited by travelling vehicles from across the border in particular, and we a have a roads vehicle which carries out patrols.”
Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull, chairman of the board, told him: “You touched on travellers that come into the area to commit crimes.
“We’ve worked extensively with the National Farmers’ Union and with the farming community to protect the likes of agricultural vehicles, and things like that.
“We had a spate of Ford Transits being stolen, where people could buy a key for £25, and get into the van to rewire it, so there’s quite sophisticated methodology in these targeted crimes.
Mr Reid said that the use of technology to commit crimes is always on the rise, explaining: “It’s increasing all the time. Our colleagues have seen small tracking devices fitted to the bottom of cars where people have been at an event and the criminals have seen something on the car on the roof and thought ‘I’ll have that’, so they track the car back that way.
“There’s also technology where they use signal boosters. If you’ve got your car in the driveway, and the key will be sitting in the hallway or at the back door, they can actually use a device to boost the signal from the key to the car, open it and get away without even breaking into your house.
“There is an increase in sophistication.”
Despite the Borders increasingly being targeted by thieves from further afield, the number of housebreakings here has fallen by more than a 10th, Mr Reid reported.
The former Scotland rugby international, told councillors: “We’ve had a 10.6% decrease in housebreakings.
“That reflects the work the community action team have been doing, as well as work by ourselves.
“As a result of that, we have 21 fewer homes broken into compared to last year.
“The total number of housebreakings, which includes attempts, is 175, down from 196, which is a pleasing reduction.”