VILLAINS bent on repeating their nefarious activities at next year’s Secret Garden Party at Abbots Ripton are in for “a warm surprise”, the organisers promised this week.

VILLAINS bent on repeating their nefarious activities at next year's Secret Garden Party at Abbots Ripton are in for "a warm surprise", the organisers promised this week.

So, not tasers at dawn, but the organic equivalent, in a bid to reverse a sudden increase in crime at the four-day event.

According to a report to Huntingdonshire District Council's licensing committee, there were 246 incidents were recorded by the police at the event in July this year - five times as many as the 49 recorded at the smaller 2009 event.

"Of these, 80 were for theft, most of which were organised thefts of possessions in tents. One of the group involved was apprehended," the report says, "and considerable property recovered.

"There were 166 drug and alcohol-related offences, notwithstanding strict security and dogs being used at entrances."

The 800 security staff failed to solve the problem of people climbing over security fencing or digging under it, and the security staff were taken by surprise by a sudden surge in arrivals on day one. Some visitors had to wait five hours to get in.

A total of 510 people were dealt with by the paramedics at the event, of whom 36 were referred to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, to which four patients were admitted, two with drug or alcohol-related conditions.

Two food vendors were ejected by the organisers after environmental health concerns.

Nonetheless, "this continues to be a well-managed event with a high degree of co-operation on the part of the licence-holder. It has become well known on the festival calendar and is enjoyed by both local people and visitors to the district who attend."

This year was the biggest-ever for the award-winning music and arts event, which attracted up to 17,000 paying customers within a total of 26,000 people on site. There are no plans to increase those numbers in 2011.

"We are having a year of consolidation, and we shall be diverting more funds towards fencing and security," organiser Freddie Fellowes, son of Lord de Ramsey, in the grounds of whose Abbots Ripton Hall home the event is staged, told The Hunts Post.

But he disputed the crime figures, saying they included lost property that was subsequently handed in.

Nonetheless, the level of the increase in reported offences has clearly taken Mr Fellowes and his colleagues in the Backwoodsman company that runs the Secret Garden Party by surprise.

They are taking steps to ensure the crime figures in 2011 return to their 2009 levels.

"We are hoping to prepare a warm surprise to the people who come here planning to contribute to these figures," he warned the criminal fraternity.