There has been a series of house burglaries which have happened mainly in the Hart District area. These have been in Blackwater and Fleet, but from the method used, it is also known that similar crimes have occurred in the Surrey and Thames Valley police areas.
Because the series covers quite a wide area, it would be sensible to consider that the area may change and therefore this article is relevant to many people.
The specific burglaries I am writing about are those where the thieves have noticed a key safe outside the house and this has been forced off, then opened and the key used to enter the house.
Cars have been stolen where the keys are located within the home and some of the cars are high value ones, but not always. On some occasions, other items within the home are stolen too.
A key safe is used when a carer needs to access the home and these are usually secure, therefore this type of burglary is quite unusual.
In terms of crime prevention, this is a hard one in some respect, because one could simply remove their key safe and prevent a potential crime, however, a key safe is fitted for a specific reason and it is to allow quick access to a house by a carer where the resident may not be able to get to the door themselves, or is infirm, so it is not something that you would want to take away from a safety point of view.
The criminals who have targeted home with key safes have clearly driven around areas to look for homes with key safes. This is probably done during the daylight. It is then late at night or during the early hours of the morning that they will return and commit the crime.
These criminals will probably have a `cover story` to use if they are stopped by residents, or the police – a `cover story` is something that they will use to provide a plausible excuse for being in the area.
These stories will probably include posting leaflets for garden work or other home maintenance.
It is our experience in the police that people in communities are good at reporting suspicious activity, however, I would encourage more people to do this because what may appear irrelevant to someone, may have significant importance to the police.
These criminals will use vehicles to travel, therefore any suspicious activity observed where a car or van is seen should be reported, because if a vehicle is seen in other areas and these are close to where burglaries have then occurred, it is then possible to make links with the vehicles seen and the crimes.
If you have a key safe, then look at where it is fitted and if there is a more discrete position that it can be attached, then consider moving it. The main thing is that anyone who may have the need to get the keys knows where the key safe is and that there is ease of access to it.
Criminals will be looking for quick opportunities, therefore if they can`t see what they are looking for easily, they will often move on.
Other crime prevention advice will still apply, such as gravel paths and driveways, movement activated security lights and keeping car keys in less obvious places inside your home. The same will apply to other items, such as jewellery, cash and computers.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Station.