Police in Crawley are working closely with the Asian community across the district following a spate of burglaries in which hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of jewellery has been stolen.
Under the name of Operation Minnisota, a dedicated team of detectives is working on the enquiry to try and identify the offenders and bring them to justice - but the public’s help is needed.
It is believed that crime groups are identifying and targeting specific addresses when they know that large amounts of jewellery are being stored, for example for religious festivals.
Thieves then break in whilst the occupants are out and steal the gold, which they then sell on.
Detective Inspector Rob Walker, who is leading the investigation for Operation Minnisota, said: “Over the last three months, we have had in excess of 40 offences and understandably the Asian community is becoming increasingly distressed.
“The offences are taking place across the whole area and seem to be happening in ‘spikes’. For example, there will be a series of four or five offences over a couple of days and then nothing for a period of time.
“We have dedicated staff working on Operation Minnisota full time to investigate the offences that have already taken place, and uniformed officers are carrying out directed patrol activity across the community. We have additional support from Force level resources and extra officers are being deployed - significantly, this will continue through religious festivals.
“This is not a crime that is just happening in Crawley - we are seeing the same thing taking place up and down the country. We don’t believe it is just one group who are carrying out the offences, but several, in much the same way that distraction burglaries are carried out.
“We are continuing to work with other forces to build up the bigger picture and to try and identify these offenders. But we also need the help of the public. If they know anything about these crimes, or have notice any suspicious activity - for example cold calling in the area - then please contact police immediately with that information. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it may seem, just call.”
Much of the work the police are undertaking is around prevention in a bid to prevent potential victims being targeted. Work is also being undertaken to reassure the community that the police are working tirelessly to identify those responsible.
Chief Inspector Steve Curry, District Commander for Crawley, said: “We’re very aware of how much distress this series of crimes is causing and are doing everything we can to prevent offences and provide reassurance to the Asian communities in Crawley. I am determined that the offenders will be caught and brought to justice and this will remain the key policing priority in Crawley until this has been achieved.
“We’re getting out into the community to talk to victims and those who have concerns and giving advice about how they can try and protect their property and keep it safe from potential thieves.
“It’s vital that we work with those that are directly and indirectly affected to provide the reassure and support that’s needed. If anyone needs to speak to an officer then our message is not to hesitate in picking up the phone.”
Any witnesses or anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting Operation Minnisota. Alternatively, call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.