People who own homes in the country are at an increased risk of crime, according to a report.

Halifax Home Insurance's Latch-Key Index said that many countryside homeowners are over-confident about the security of their property.

Approximately one-third of them leave their doors unlocked most days of the week, it indicated.

Some 70 per cent of the rural dwellers do not use a burglar alarm, the report revealed.

But the rate of countryside crime is rising at twice that of urban offences and rural property owners must take steps to reduce this, according to Halifax.

Burglary and vandalism are the most common felonies and a 30 per cent rise will be seen in burglary during the holidays.

Senior claims manager at the insurers Martyn Foulds said: "Rural residents should be especially vigilant during this festive season, with burglars aware of the increased value of home contents nestled under the Christmas tree."

Crimestoppers has launched an appeal urging people not to leave presents in full view this festive season.

The charity is also urging people to inform them anonymously of any burglaries, with the slogan "five minutes to steal, one minute to tell us".

Written by Sarah FieldADNFCR-2002-ID-19525628-ADNFCR

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