POLICE have distanced themselves from advice suggesting residents should consider digging trenches or erecting barricades in front of their properties to prevent a crime wave when the Tour de France comes to North Yorkshire.

Harrogate and District Neighbourhood Watch Association said while it was difficult to predict the impact of the race on crime, there was evidence there would be many criminals among visitors to the event.

In a newsletter for the 18,000 households it serves, the group’s chairman, Keith Roberts, said residents should be aware of gangs of thieves operating distraction techniques and others gaining access to unsecured properties.

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He said: “Our enviable record of the lowest level of criminality could be decimated over a couple of days unless we can support our police by reporting suspicious activity and where appropriate warning members of the public of the vulnerability of leaving possessions exposed.

"For our rural members there could be an additional risk of vehicles parking on your

land and after the event quad bikes and other items found to be missing.

"If it is feasible do consider digging a trench across points of entry or creating other obstructions.

Mr Roberts added sheds, garages and outbuildings should be kept secure as residents' "unwitting hospitality could be the ideal location for overnight ?accommodation", or enable thieves to steal cycles or tools.

The Tour De France's Grand Depart getsunderway this weekend, with cyclists leaving Leeds to head to Harrogate.

Upper Dales councillor John Blackie said he had been astonished by the advice.

He said: "When I heard this my mouth dropped open in complete and utter amazement that someone should put out something so absurd.

"We are here to enjoy ourselves and are certainly not expecting a crimewave."

North Yorkshire Police said while the newsletter erroneously carried the name of one of its officers, it had not issued advice to farmers and landowners to dig trenches at access points.

A police spokesman said it was urging residents to be vigilant and that there will be a significant police and security presence on hand to deter and detect criminals during the event.

He said residents and visitors to the event should keep their belongings out of view and secure vehicles and tents.

He said: "Everybody is urged to play their part to keep opportunistic criminals at bay."