There has been a spate of house burglaries which have been from the North of Hampshire to the South. There will no doubt be other crimes which have occurred in neighbouring police force areas too.
In the area that I work, there has been four over the last week, which have happened in Hook. There were also some in Farnborough too.
The target for the criminals is cash and jewellery and the method used to break into the homes is to gain access to the rear and smash the back doors, often patio doors.
Looking at the recent crimes, the M3 motorway corridor is the common factor, where the persons involved are probably using a car and targeting homes close to the motorway so that they can travel away quickly and onto other areas.
Typically, the common times for these burglaries to occur is in the early evening on a weekday, therefore the criminals are reasonably confident that the residents are out.
During the week we are all busy with work, or after school commitments with children, where many families either don`t return from work until later, or they are out with clubs etc.
At this time of year too, people are going out in the evening for Christmas work parties, so homes are frequently unoccupied in the early evenings.
In several of the crimes, there have been clear signs to the people involved that the houses are unoccupied – either there are no cars on the driveway, or the lights have been off.
The criminals will take a chance that they might be disturbed by owners returning, but they clearly remain vigilant and have pre-planned their escape, such as in one case in Hook last week, where the owners did return, to find the curtains and blinds moving.
In this case, the two men seen quickly left and went through the housing estate and left in a car which was nearby, but out of sight so that they would not be caught later.
There are two important things to consider in the cases of burglaries. The first is prevention so you are not a victim in the first place. The second is gathering evidence if you have been a victim, which I will deal with in this order.
I have written before about crime prevention and this really does depend on our budget, but it will also depend on what is necessary too and how you protect your home is quite a personal matter.
At the more expensive end of the market you can install CCTV and alarms, which you would need to spend quite a lot of money on to have an effective system. However, in this article, I will concentrate on the more simple methods, but this is not because I would not recommend CCTV or alarms, because some people may prefer this option, or they have things in their homes which the insurance companies may require this.
When I consider the houses targeted in the area I work, these have been on large, modern housing estates, where access has been gained via the side gate, or from the rear garden, which have been weak points. Some of the houses have been on the edge of the housing estates too.
Simple, low cost adjustments, such as gravel paths and a three-point lock on the gate will help. Criminals will not want to be heard walking across `crunchy` gravel paths and if you fit three gate bolts (top, middle and bottom) this will make opening the gate harder.
Movement activated outside lighting is low cost and effective and the fitting of window alarms is good, where they simply stick onto the window and set off a loud alarm when movement causes vibration (if you would like these, please send me an e-mail and these can be provided free).
Leaving a light on, or fitting timer switches to lamps will create the impression that someone is at home – again, timer switches can be made available free, so let me know if you want one.
Leaving a car on the driveway is always a good deterrent, but on a day to day basis, this is impractical, but something to consider if you are going away for a weekend or longer.
In terms of evidence gathering, please don`t rush into your home to find out what has been stolen – think bout the forensic potential first.
In the event of someone returning home and finding their home burgled, ring the police and the call-taker will give you practical tips to consider whilst a crime scene investigator is arranged.
Criminals are forensically aware, especially in series crime, but there have been excellent advances in DNA and other methods of recovering vital evidence, such as footwear marks, so it is important that you seek advice from the police first before the family all walk through the house and check all the areas that the criminals will have been, which will reduce, or make worthless the forensic potential.
At this time of year especially, people will have many more items in their homes due to Christmas and this can make homes an attractive proposition for criminals, coupled with people being away visiting families in the forthcoming few weeks.
Next week I will write a timely reminder about securing your personal property and how you can increase the chances of stolen property being returned to you if you are an unfortunate victim of crime.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Office.