'People are frightened to go out after dark… criminals use drones for surveillance': Private police tell how residents pay £35 each a month for them to patrol Cambridgeshire town where the average house costs £378k after spate of burglaries

  • Post category:news
  • Reading time:8 min(s) read

  • Multiple houses in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire, were burgled within a few weeks 
  • Has your town hired private security or seen a rise in rural crime? Email elena.salvoni@mailonline.co.uk 

Villagers are too frightened to go out after dark following a spate of burglaries and anti-social behaviour in parts of rural England, according to a private security company which says it has seen a rise in demand for its services.

The historic market town of Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire hired their own private police force to patrol the streets after multiple houses in the same neighbourhood were burgled within just a few weeks.

About 50 villages in the area have also hired security guards for their neighbourhoods, with their services costing households about £35 a month. 

Paul Evans said his company, Shield, which is taking over security in Kimbolton and has dozens of other towns on its books, has seen the number of enquiries from residents, farmers and businesses increase by the day.

‘There is just an increase in anti-social behaviour full stop: burglaries, damaging and stealing equipment, setting up cannabis factories, whatever it may be,’ Mr Evans told MailOnline. 

The historic market town of Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire hired their own private police force to patrol the streets after multiple houses in the same neighbourhood were burgled

The historic market town of Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire hired their own private police force to patrol the streets after multiple houses in the same neighbourhood were burgled

The security company has state of the art drones, thermal cameras, marked cars and dogs to try and deter crime

The security company has state of the art drones, thermal cameras, marked cars and dogs to try and deter crime

‘There is a hell of a lot of people even in villages that are frightened to go out after dark. Elderly people in particular are petrified to go out after dark.’

He said many of his customers have lost faith in the police, who are too overstretched to deal with minor incidents.

‘The first thing police say is “anybody injured” and they say no and so they don’t come out. 

‘It’s quite alarming, people are saying “I had somebody in my garden, I called the police and they didn’t turn up.”

‘There seems to be a gap, during the dark hours police are struggling to cover all the minor incidents.’

‘People want reassurance and they want people to be there. If someone calls us, we will respond to that, we will probably send a few cars out, maybe a dog handler and a drone straightaway and an arrest is made if it’s an indictable offence.’  

The security company has state of the art drones, thermal cameras, marked cars and dogs to try and deter crime and reassure residents in the communities it covers. 

Having worked with a fleet of five vehicles for seven years, Mr Evans said the company has just ordered another two to cope with demand.

The security company has state of the art drones, thermal cameras, marked cars and dogs to try and deter crime and reassure residents in the communities it covers

The security company has state of the art drones, thermal cameras, marked cars and dogs to try and deter crime and reassure residents in the communities it covers

Having worked with a fleet of five vehicles for seven years, Mr Evans said the company has just ordered another two to cope with demand

Having worked with a fleet of five vehicles for seven years, Mr Evans said the company has just ordered another two to cope with demand

‘We are even being asked to go out in daylight,’ he said.

‘A lot of the villagers know the villages don’t get policed as they would like.

‘When they are at work or go shopping in the day and their premises are left unattended they want to have a marked vehicle in the area.’

It is not just residents homes which are being targeted but also high street businesses, he said. 

‘We have a customer who is a pharmacist  who has issues with anti-social behaviour every night, they’ll set his alarm off and he lives in another county – it’s an hour drive to get to his premises.’

After a string of burglaries in Kimbolton, homeowners took matters into their own hands in 2019

After a string of burglaries in Kimbolton, homeowners took matters into their own hands in 2019

About 50 villages in the area have also hired security guards for their neighbourhoods

About 50 villages in the area have also hired security guards for their neighbourhoods

He said farmers are also having to fork out ‘tens of thousands’ for damage to their machinery and fields.

‘Criminals are using cutting equipment to cut through gates and padlocks – they are even using drones to do their surveillance in the day,’ he warned.

The total cost of rural crime has risen by a staggering 22 per cent on last year to an estimated total of £49.5m, according to NFU Mutual’s latest report on the issue, released in August. 

Homeowners in Kimbolton, where the average house price is £378,000, first took matters into their own hands in 2019 following a string of burglaries.

After a string of burglaries in Kimbolton, homeowners took matters into their own hands in 2019

After a string of burglaries in Kimbolton, homeowners took matters into their own hands in 2019

More and more residents started paying for the security service from 2019 - including 90 per cent of the residents in the neighbouring hamlet of Stonely, according to Blueline Security

More and more residents started paying for the security service from 2019 – including 90 per cent of the residents in the neighbouring hamlet of Stonely, according to Blueline Security

Among them was pilot Derek Suckling, who was working in America when his wife Natasha Armstrong called to tell him that their house had been the latest target. 

‘She was in the house on her own when they broke in through the patio door,’ Mr Suckling told The Sunday Times.

The thieves took the family’s Jeep, clothes, shoes and jewellery worth thousands of pounds in the burglary five years ago.

Houses in the same neighbourhood in Kimbolton (pictured), rural Cambridgeshire, were burgled within just a few weeks

Houses in the same neighbourhood in Kimbolton (pictured), rural Cambridgeshire, were burgled within just a few weeks

Pilot Derek Suckling (pictured), 51, was working in America when his wife Natasha Armstrong called to tell him that their house had been the latest target by burglars.

Pilot Derek Suckling (pictured), 51, was working in America when his wife Natasha Armstrong called to tell him that their house had been the latest target by burglars.

Within just four weeks of their house being broken into, every house on the couple’s street, Easton Road, ‘had a break-in or attempted break in’, according to Mr Suckling. 

READ MORE: Almost 600 burglaries are going unsolved every day with more than 200,000 police investigations into break-ins closed without any suspects being identified, analysis of Home Office figures finds

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More and more residents started paying for the security service – including 90 per cent of the residents in the neighbouring hamlet of Stonely, according to Blueline Security.

Blueline Security started working with residents in Kimbolton back in 2019. At the time only gated homes in London were patrolled and the company’s main work was focused on surveillance and close protection. 

This has since changed, as 40 per cent of their customers are now employing them to patrol their neighbourhoods in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. 

Ed Hill, who is the managing director of Intrepid Protection in London and ex-Royal Marines said his company’s clientele was changing from the super-wealthy to wealthy people who have a ‘lack of faith in the police and the judicial system’. 

He said his employees don’t use security vans or hi-vis jackets – instead they have ‘ordinary’ cars for their patrols, so they ‘can intercept and intervene when there is suspicious behaviour’. 

Mr Suckling’s home is the furthest from the central policing hubs in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, he said.

‘You see a policeman out here about as often as you see Halley’s Comet. In the aftermath of the burglaries, the community was really on edge,’ he told The Sunday Times. 

‘The patrols have been a massive reassurance. We can also call or send a WhatsApp and get a car here within seven to ten minutes but sometimes, 70 seconds. It’s about pushing criminality out of this area.’

After the spade of burglaries homeowners in Kimbolton (pictured) took matters into their own hands and hired a private security company to patrol the streets with dogs and marked cars

After the spade of burglaries homeowners in Kimbolton (pictured) took matters into their own hands and hired a private security company to patrol the streets with dogs and marked cars

He said so many neighbours came together to pay for the security patrol due to the ‘strong sense of community’ in Kimbolton.

Mr Suckling’s Jeep resurfaced when it was spotted by a farmer in a field, who called the police. 

It emerged that the Jeep had been used for other burglaries and the thief, who stole more than £160,000 in five months, was jailed for 12 years. 

Before they hired security patrols, Mr Suckling said slept with bats and sporting rifles because they lived in ‘permanent fear of the next break-in’. 

He said at the time: ‘These criminals are acting with impunity. They broke into a downstairs window that is adjacent to where my son sleeps.

‘The fact that people are there is not a deterrent to them… even when confronted.

‘I have heard people in the village are sleeping with rifles, firearms and bats and weapons within reach because of fear of people entering their property.’




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