ASIAN family homes are being targeted by organised gangs of burglars who are stealing valuable, heirloom gold and jewellery – with one taking place every three days in Essex.
The “clear and present” warning from police comes in the run-up to several religious festivals, with the Hindu festival of Diwali only days away. Essex Police’s awareness campaign is looking to counteract the rising burglary numbers and any surge in such “pre-planned” raids, with particular focus on prevention, security and insurance.
In a number of the recent Asian gold burglaries, easily-transportable possessions, such as valuable electrical items, have been ignored; a clear sign that criminals are specifically aiming for properties inhabited by families or retired couples.
With pockets of Asian communities across the entire county, detectives are “finding it hard to identify the organised criminals” because of the nature of their movements; which is why they need people to help them and themselves.
Leading the drive to reinforce the security awareness message is DI Paul Maleary. He wants all Asian families, regardless of religion or country of origin, to ensure their valuable property is safe from the hands of “unscrupulous criminals”.
“Asian traditions have always placed a strong emphasis on jewellery and investing in gold is a time-honoured practice as it plays an important role in many religious festivals, with many items handed down through generations,” said DI Maleary. “Essex has a blossoming Asian culture and, as their local police force, we must ensure they are aware of what we are doing to eliminate the problem by identifying the criminals and locking them up; however, we must also ensure they know how they can help play their part in this partnership approach too.”
In the seven months since April, there have been 70 Asian gold burglaries in Essex, with every district in the county having at least one victim.
In January, a family living in Billericay had their house broken into and burglars stole £50,000 worth of gold necklaces, bangles, pendants and earrings while in the same month a family from Colchester had £30,000 of gold stolen. In both cases, the owners had failed to notify their insurance companies over the years of newly-acquired items and so were left “heart-broken and severely out-of-pocket” when making the insurance claim.
Essex Police’s Crime Prevention Tactical Advisor Tony Ellis said: “It can be so easy to forget to update your house inventory and even more costly when your insurance company tells you that they will not pay out for your stolen items because you didn’t tell them about jewellery bought or given to you during the past 12 months; since your last premium.”
Working alongside the “everyday” burglar are sophisticated criminal teams who scope areas for potential targets, watch their “prey’s movements” and then strike; with a multi-thousand pound haul for a few days’ ‘work’. As a result, police say community eyes and ears will help reduce the burglary spree and help them gather information on the culprits when suspicious activity is reported.
Police have discovered banks, high street and Asian-specific, have phased out the use of safety deposit boxes so are recommending that homeowners photograph their jewellery and enhance their home security by installing alarms and security lighting as well as considering using automatic internal and external light timers.
DI Maleary added: “These are not just valuable possessions; they are also of great sentimental worth. It would be a huge loss to their owner if such jewellery was taken, especially at such a special time in the religious calendar. If possible, invest in a home safe to store jewellery inside and avoid discussing in public when you and your loved ones will be away from home.”
During the next few weeks, police will embark on a series of visits to temples and mosques in Essex in order to liaise with community leaders and imams as they highlight the surge in Asian gold-specific burglaries. In addition, neighbourhood policing teams will distribute leaflets and posters in order to spread the crime awareness and crime prevention campaign.
In London, the Metropolitan Police have already begun their awareness campaign with officers urging people to use SmartWater on their gold and jewellery, and not just their electrical items.
Anyone requiring more advice on home security can contact their local crime prevention advisor at Essex Police on 101 or visit www.essex.police.uk