Cumbria floods: Homes thefts prompt private security patrols
Private security staff have been drafted in to patrol flood-hit areas of Cumbria to ensure the county does not become a "soft target" for criminals.
The move was prompted after recent thefts from flooded homes, said Cumbria Police and the county council.
Hundreds of properties were deluged during two recent storms which resulted in record rainfall.
The additional patrols are being paid for through the county's existing flood relief fund.
Jonathan Brook from homeless charity Manna House in Kendal said they "could have been quicker off the mark but at least they've done it".
"It passes a message to people, would-be criminals, that there is a possibility, if they think of coming here, they will be detected."
Stuart Broadhurst, who runs a gallery in Askham, said: "If people know their properties are going to be watched then obviously they are going to feel more secure."
The patrols are being undertaken in Carlisle, Appleby, Cockermouth, Kendal, Keswick and Penrith between 16:00 and 08:00 each night and are expected to last until mid-February.
Staff are being sourced by recruitment firm Randstat.
A force spokesman said: "The security officers are being used to provide additional support to the police, but have not replaced police patrols or undertaken police responsibilities.
"This a precautionary measure to ensure Cumbria remains a low crime area and not a soft target as people recover from the impact of the floods.
"The use of a private security firm is not something that is normally required, however, on this occasion we felt it would be a positive approach to reassure the public during a difficult and challenging time for many people."
A county council spokesman added: "These are unprecedented times for the county.
"We're trying to help people affected by the floods as much as possible, and using private security to support the police and help safeguard flooded properties is part of that effort.
"Anyone who's been a victim of the floods has been through more than enough already, the last thing they need is to become a victim of crime as well."
One man has already been jailed for stealing property from flood-damaged homes in Carlisle.
Another man has been charged with burglary and theft of clothing and electrical goods in a flooded area.
A third is on bail after being arrested on suspicion of burglary.