A crime-busting partnership including police and companies in Telford has increased business for an insurer and a local broker while producing an 80% reduction in theft and vandalism.

The runaway success of the Midlands new town's Business Watch project has attracted the interest of senior Home Office ministers who believe it could be the way to help crime-plagued companies. Even local schools under threat from vandalism and arson during the holidays are now taking part.

Long-term partnership has been the key to the project's dramatic impact, according to Tony Conlon, commercial account manager for Shropshire broker John Henshall, a founding member of the project.

By persuading insurer Iron Trades to underwrite each industrial estate on a comprehensive basis for three years at a time, broker John Henshall has been able to offer businesses competitive rates. “The effect has been dramatic,” said Conlon.

The partnership was formed two years ago when officers from West Mercia police encouraged businesses on three of Telford's crime-ridden industrial estates to form a neighbourhood watch committee.

Business Watch managers organised security patrols in vulnerable areas to check on premises and crime-related incidents. Savings from crime have been fed back to scheme members.

“Risk management has enabled us to keep down the cost of crime and has created profitable business for ourselves and Iron Trades,” said Conlon. The partnership might have been launched sooner had approaches to major insurers not been met with deep scepticism, he lamented.

“It has taken the last two years to find an insurer like Iron Trades to come up with comprehensive and flexible underwriting. Other insurers were only interested in cherry-picking the risks,” he said.

Martyn Davenport, Iron Trades' midlands manager, said: “The partnership is an opportunity to work closely with a preferred broker, increase our joint profile and build our business.”