In the run-up to Christmas, New Forest businesses are being offered crime prevention advice to guard against thieves who are targeting outside storage areas.

Police have reported recent thefts from external storage facilities in the Hythe area and fear these may increase as the dark evenings close in and businesses stock up ready for the Christmas season.

The Safer New Forest Partnership also urges householders and farmers to be vigilant and take steps to secure their property, particularly vulnerable outbuildings, sheds and garages, from intruders.

New Forest Chief Inspector Tony Rowlinson said: “I would advise businesses and residents alike to protect their property from burglars, especially when it is left in outdoor buildings which may be easier to access. Secure your outbuildings and don’t leave anything of high value on show or unprotected.”

To reduce the risk of your premises becoming the targets of thieves, the following advice can help improve your security:

Ensure that all outside storage facilities, such as sheds and containers, are locked with a heavy duty secure padlock. Safer New Forest offers a high quality padlock for £10, which can be purchased through New Forest District Council information centres.

Fit good quality locks to gates, entrances and on any portable machinery on your land.

Improve outdoor security with external passive infra-red lights, CCTV and alarms.

Do not park vehicles or store large items, such as bins, against a fence as this will provide easier access.

Keep tools and high-value goods, including metal, out of sight and locked away. Store your most valuable items inside your main property if possible.

Report any suspicious activity, including descriptions of suspects and vehicles, including number plates.

Always ask workmen for ID – criminals will often adopt disguises to access your property and gain your trust.

Stay alert on open days and fetes. These events are ideal opportunities for criminals to check out your property.

Security mark your property and display notices saying your property is security marked.

Where possible, enlist the support of your local Neighbourhood Watch.

Register your property for free on www.immobilise.com