Border villagers are being asked to tear down abandoned pigsties and makeshift shelters to prevent them being used as illegal immigrant hideouts. Those on government land in Ping Shan, Kam Tin, and Shap Pat Heung - notorious illegal immigrant haunts in the northwest New Territories - will be demolished first. District officers will register the abandoned structures while lands officers will help trace the owners. The structures will be demolished once consent has been obtained. No compensation will be paid. The demolition initiative comes during a police campaign to distribute pamphlets alerting villagers to crime prevention. That campaign had an inauspicious start because most elderly villagers are illiterate. The campaign was prompted by a rise in the number of illegal immigrants caught committing crimes in recent months. Last month saw 145 illegal immigrants arrested for crime - up 18.9 per cent from the June figure. Most had been involved in crimes such as stealing clothes, bicycles or robbing villagers of cash. However, fears have grown since the double murder of an elderly couple in Ping Shan two weeks ago allegedly by an illegal immigrant. Yuen Long Fight Crime Committee member Mak Yip-shing said he supported the proposal but added police should step up night patrols in the countryside. Mr Mak said: 'The demolition proposal certainly helps a lot but it is supposed to be a last resort. The crux of the problem is lax police patrols.' The border district commander, Chief Superintendent Bernard Luk Hung-kuen, attributed the recent surge in illegal immigrants to the fine weather. 'Summer is usually the peak period because the weather is warmer. You wouldn't swim over in winter, would you?' Mr Luk said. He maintained the problem was not serious and said police had enough manpower to protect villagers. Yesterday he led field patrol detachment officers and police community relations staff on a visit to border villages to give out leaflets, urging residents to report crime and illegal immigrants. But the goodwill gesture was confronted by moments of embarrassment as a Ho Sheung Heung villager, Hau Tei, 82, rejected the leaflets, saying she was illiterate. Ms Hau said: 'Most elderly people here are not able to read or write. It is no use giving the paper to us. If the police care about us, they had better patrol more.'