Upmarket residents told to sleep with their keys
The Grange and Prestonfield areas of Edinburgh – home to former RBS chief Fred Goodwin – has seen a 20% increase in break-ins over the past year.
Much of the crimewave is down to criminals breaking into homes in a bid to get their hands on car keys.
A community police officer angered some residents at a recent meeting by suggesting they should sleep with their car keys.
The motoring organisation the AA has ridiculed the police suggestion, warning that householders will shortly be encouraged to take their TVs to bed with them.
Kenny Kemp, a resident who attended the recent community council meeting to discuss the problem , said he was “shocked” at the advice given by the police.
He said: “The community policewoman told us this was the worst spate of break-ins she had see in her 12-year career. She advised people to take their car keys up to bed with them.
“I was shocked this was the advice of the police.”
Councillor Cameron Rose, a former police inspector, admitted such crimes in the city’s affluent areas was an “ongoing problem that has not been properly dealt with yet”.
He confirmed: “There’s been a theme in recent months of criminals targeting cars outside people’s homes by breaking in and stealing the keys.”
Andrew Howard, Head of Road Safety for the AA, slammed the police advice saying it was leading people down a “confusing” path.
He said: “Generally people who nick cars don’t like being seen, so for them to feel the need to come into your home to search for keys is concerning.
“But the advice of the police seems confusing because it’s not just car keys that are valuable.
“Where do we draw the line? Does that mean we should start taking our TVs to bed just stop them getting stolen?
“The police must know what’s going on. There’s a difference between someone taking their chance at hot-wiring a 2005 Vauxhall Astra and someone who breaks into a home to steal the keys for a car worth nearly £100k.”
Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said the best way to look after your car was to keep everything “out of sight” from thieves.
He said: “ The days of the chisel and a quick turn in the lock are long gone as even vehicles ten or 15 years old have immobiliser technology.
“Treat your car keys like your wallet. Keep them in a safe place and out of sight. Don’t leave them lying around.”
He added: “If thieves are willing to use violence to get hold of keys then our advice would be not to resist.
A security expert at Thatcham, a company which specialises in anti-vehicle theft, said that stealing a car is now “almost impossible” without the key.
He said: “The best advice is to keep your car keys well away from inside the front door of your house, preventing the possibility of them being hooked through the letterbox.”
“We will see professional gangs continue to steal cars from the luxury end of the market. Police will have to take a more intelligence-led approach against gangs who are perhaps shipping vehicles abroad.”
Lothian and Borders said they had already arrested a large number of offenders following the crime spree.
Detective Inspector Stuart Harkness from Lothian and Borders Police said: “Between May and June, Lothian and Borders Police have traced and charged six offenders in relation to 49 crimes relating to alleged thefts and break-ins from homes committed within the Grange area of Edinburgh.
“We are keen to work with local residents and provide home security advice, including always making sure doors and windows are kept secure, or installing software to mobile and computer devices to ensure the prompt recovery of stolen items.
“We would also ask the public to contact us immediately on 0131 311 3131 if they see people acting suspiciously near to their property.
Asked if it was appropriate for residents to be told to take car keys to bed, a police spokeswoman said: “We are not saying that taking your keys to bed is the only measure.
“We have increased patrols and have procedures in place to ensure homes in the Grange remain safe and other safety tips can be found on our website.”
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