As burglary figures rocket, police target repeat offenders by visiting their homes three times a night

Picture to illustrate a new police campaign  'Help Yourselves' - making the point that in 40 per cent of burglaries a window or door is left open through which a burglar can gain access.
Picture to illustrate a new police campaign 'Help Yourselves' - making the point that in 40 per cent of burglaries a window or door is left open through which a burglar can gain access.

POLICE in Sheffield are visiting the homes of known prolific burglars up to three times a night in a bid to prevent crooks offending - as the number of break-ins rockets across the city.

There have been 140 more burglaries in Sheffield so far this year compared to the year before. The 17.5 per cent surge is being blamed on the release from prison of seasoned burglars who were jailed three and four years ago when offences in South Yorkshire were at their peak.

Detective Inspector Chris Singleton, from Sheffield’s priority crime team, told The Star repeated home visits in the middle of the night were being used to warn ex-cons they are still being watched.

“We will visit them during the hours of darkness two or three times a night to check they are abiding by the terms of their licences and to get the message across that we are monitoring them,” he said.

“It is one of a number of ways we are trying to prevent re-offending.”

Although burglaries are down on figures from a few years ago - a current average of 250 a month in Sheffield, compared to 400 a month previously - a hike in numbers this year is being blamed on offenders being released into the community after serving time behind bars.

“In Sheffield we look at 2007 as a benchmark for how we are doing in terms of our performance, because that was when offences were at their highest,” said DI Singleton.

“We are finding that those who were jailed then are now being released and are back in the community.

“There are a small proportion of people currently out and committing a large proportion of these crimes.”

He said attempts to free up prison places before jails reach saturation point were also resulting in some burglars regaining their freedom early.

“It is getting difficult to get people remanded in custody, or to get lengthy sentences for burglary and auto crime, because of the shortage of prison spaces,” DI Singleton said.

“So the result is offenders back on the streets again sooner than they should be.

“The police and other agencies are aware of when prisoners are due to be released and we have programmes in place to monitor them. Calling at their homes is part of that work.”

Police trying to prevent burglaries are also calling at homes which have ground floor windows left open and doors unlocked.

Officers on routine patrols have been asked to look out for homes at risk of break-ins, but special operations have also been mounted where officers will call at every insecure home they see.

“It means we end up waking people up in the middle of the night, and they may be shocked to see us there at first, but most appreciate why we are doing it,” DI Singleton said.

“We need people to help themselves by locking doors at all times and never leaving ground floor windows open.

“At this time of year the vast majority of offences are sneak-ins, where an open door or window is an open invitation to opportunist thieves.

“We also get people followed into their homes straight from work by people who know a bag or set of keys is probably at the front door, so within seconds they can be driving off in your car.

“We are finding hundreds and hundreds of insecure properties, all at risk.”

Anyone with information about burglaries should call South Yorkshire Police on 0114 220 2020.