Well over 200 people attended a public meeting at Holy Trinity Church, Bradley Stoke on Tuesday 24th January to share their concerns over a surge in burglaries in the area, and in particular the proportion of these incidents in which so-called ‘high value gold’ was stolen.
The meeting took place just days after properties in Savages Wood Road, Bradley Stoke; Bourton Close, Stoke Lodge; and Clyde Grove, Filton were targeted by ‘high value gold’ burglars within the space of just 30 minutes, in what police believe were linked incidents.
Statistics released by the Home Office show that there were 16 burglaries recorded in Bradley Stoke during November 2016 (the latest month for which data is available online). This is the highest in any month over the last six years (which is as far back as online data goes). In the 12-month period ending one year previously (December 2014 to November 2015), there was an average of 3.0 burglaries per month, a figure which has risen to 4.8 in the year to November 2016.
The latest surge easily exceeds the most recent peak of nine burglaries recorded in April 2016, which local police described at the time as a “spate”.
Latest figures disclosed
In response to enquiries from the Journal, Avon & Somerset Police have disclosed more up-to-date figures which show that there were 38 domestic burglaries in Bradley Stoke between the last week in June 2016 and 17th January (a period of around six-and-a-half months) and of these, 22 have involved thefts of ‘high value gold’.
The public meeting was organised by Bradley Stoke town councillor Tom Aditya who has close connections with many Asian families in the area, a section of the community which has been disproportionately affected by this type of crime.
In calling the meeting, Cllr Aditya said that local neighbourhoods have been severely affected by burglaries, “which are increasing day by day”, and expressed regret that the police have not been not able to “fully restrain the menace or to bring all culprits under the law”.
The meeting was attended by Temporary Detective Chief Inspector (T/DCI) Dom Graham, who is leading Avon & Somerset Police’s response to the issue of ‘high value gold’ burglary, incidents, which have been gradually increasing since 2013.
Forcewide, there have been 148 ‘high value gold’ burglaries since the end of June 2016, predominantly in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. A dedicated team of ten specialist detectives and patrol officers was set up in October 2016 to investigate this particular type of offence and since then there have been 38 arrests, with ten suspects charged (some with multiple offences).
T/DCI Graham’s advice, broadcast on BBC TV’s Point West programme some days earlier, that Asian families should “avoid turning their homes into a goldmine” was criticised by some members of the audience for giving the impression that all Asians keep gold. In reality, many Asian household have no gold, but still fear being targeted by burglars, having their homes ransacked and possibly even threatened with violence, simply because of their ethnicity.
A number of victims shared their experiences, including one whose family members were threatened with violence during a recent burglary in Filton.
Several spoke of the effect the burglaries have had on their children, who are now too afraid to be left on their own.
One resident of Bradley Stoke said he was burgled when he was out of his home for just half-an-hour, which he believed showed that criminals are monitoring homes and waiting for the right moment to strike.
In response to accusations that the police aren’t doing enough to catch offenders, T/DCI Graham described the typical gold burglar as “quite sophisticated” and “clearly forensically aware”, given that they very often leave no fingerprints or footprints and no DNA traces.
One of the difficulties they have is that the burglars are travelling to Bristol from other force areas as far away as West Yorkshire, and so are not known local offenders. Furthermore, the criminals are thought to regularly change the registration plates on their vehicles, in order to fox police attempts to track them using ANPR systems.
With four recent incidents in the force area [each] netting gold to a value in excess of £100k, criminals are finding they can make more from this type of burglary than robbing a bank or blowing up an ATM.
The police have previously advised householders to install a home safe in which to keep gold and jewellery, however, following cases in which homes have been ransacked and safes ripped out, they are now very clearly saying “don’t keep gold in your home”. The difficulty here is that the alternative of using a commercial safety deposit box facility is not available locally and families have to travel to Cardiff or Birmingham to find them.
Beware of cold callers
From speaking to victims, police say they believe criminals are observing potential targets in the weeks leading up to a burglary, for example by cold calling and pretending to offer services. Anyone with suspicions about a cold caller is therefore encouraged to report this by phoning 101. This information can then be used to help proactive officers target their patrols.
It was noted that following the recent suspected linked incidents in Bradley Stoke, Stoke Lodge and Filton, follow-up interviews revealed that neighbours had seen a suspicious vehicle, but not thought it worthwhile reporting.
T/DCI Graham noted that the majority of offences occur in the daytime or evening. The best advice is to fit a burglar alarm, which acts as a deterrent, and not to leave curtains drawn in the daytime. If possible, get a friend or neighbour to come in and draw/open curtains. During the winter months, the period between 4pm and 7pm is a prime time for burglaries because criminals can see no one is at home, but use the shroud of darkness to cover their offences.
Photos: 1 (top) The packed hall at Holy Trinity Church 2 (left) Cllr Tom Aditya. 3 (right) T/DCI Dom Graham.
How are Avon and Somerset Police responding?
- We have promoted crime prevention messages at beat surgeries at the Willow Brook Centre, through the Bradley Stoke Journal and Bradley Stoke Radio, in the wider media and on social media
- Neighbourhood officers have taken crime prevention messages into companies with large numbers of employees to reach as many people as they can
- We support victims of high value gold burglary with a personal visit from our Bobby van giving tailored crime prevention advice
- We carry out extended house-to-house enquiries following every incident, giving neighbours crime prevention information and raising awareness as well as seeking witnesses and information
- We’re encouraging people to set up Neighbourhood Watch schemes
- We’ve got crime prevention advice available in five languages
- We carry out targeted patrols both in uniform and plain clothes
- We’re working closely with other police forces
More information and related links:
- Crime statistics for Bradley Stoke (Home Office)
- Setting up a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme (PC Jamie Shiels)
- Burglary prevention tips (PC Jamie Shiels)
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 20 & 21). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
UPDATE (13/2/17): Figures published after the above magazine article went to print show that there were 12 burglaries reported in Bradley Stoke during December 2016.
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