Every year rural crime costs millions of pounds and causes untold anxiety across the UK, however growing awareness of rural crime is translating into action as communities are employing their own means to protect themselves.

One such example of a community taking action is Whitchurch-on-Thames in the Thames valley region which recently became a ‘SmartWater village’. Over 80 per cent of homes in the village, which is near to Reading, are now using SmartWater to help keep their belongings safe from burglars.

SmartWater is a colourless liquid solution that can be applied to the surfaces of belongings and valuables. Each SmartWater kit contains a unique chemical ‘code’ which is registered to an individual address. SmartWater cannot be viewed with the naked eye, only under UV light, and is practically impossible to remove. It can be used to conclusively prove the ownership of all kinds of valuables, including many items identified by NFU Mutual’s rural crime report as being at risk of theft. This includes tools, garden equipment, machinery and quad bikes.

The village now joins other ‘SmartWatered’ communities within the vicinity of Reading – Littleworth, Wescot, Sparsholt, Hinton Waldrist, and Appleford. Thames Valley Police are hoping that other towns and villages will follow their good example.

While these areas haven’t had a particular problem with burglary, officers wanted to get residents into the habit of ‘burglar-proofing’ their homes, and SmartWater is one of the most effective ways that they can do this.

PCSO Mark Bell has been promoting SmartWater amongst residents and businesses in Whitchurch-on-Thames with the help of the Parish Council and representatives from SmartWater.

PCSO Mark Bell said: “A massive benefit of SmartWater is that it is extremely difficult to remove from property once it’s been applied. Even the smallest of traces can be analysed and used to prove ownership of a marked item.

“While this is extremely helpful with police investigations, the signs that people can put up in their window, and the street signs that can be put up on lampposts, are a very effective deterrent to would-be burglars.”

Phil Cleary, CEO of SmartWater, said: “The latest rural crime report from NFU Mutual highlights that criminals are using increasingly sophisticated means and technology, but also that communities are responding to this threat.

“Communities are becoming increasingly aware that traditional methods of security such as CCTV and alarms have a limited impact on deterring criminals and also require a swift police response to be effective. This can leave rural communities feeling vulnerable as budget cuts to police forces make it less feasible to provide this rapid response.

“The SmartWater village is an example of how residents can use cutting-edge crime fighting methods to protect themselves by creating a longstanding deterrent that is not resource intensive for the police. The SmartWater village is a model that has the potential to be used across the UK and can easily be replicated in other locations by communities working together.

“When deployed to protect entire communities, SmartWater has produced reductions in crime by as much as 85%. We are confident that SmartWater will act as a powerful crime deterrent and ultimately help to make people feel safer in their homes.”

Leader of the Parish Council, Harold Butterworth, said: “Whitchurch-on-Thames Parish Council were delighted to work with Thames Valley Police (PCSO Bell in particular), and SmartWater on the campaign. SmartWater is a sophisticated solution to a complex problem in rural communities such as ours, and we’re very happy to help as best we could.”