Burglaries in towns and villages across the Horsham district have increased by more than 250 per cent this festive period, prompting extra police action.
Officers said 22 homes were broken into across the Pulborough, Steyning, Billingshurst and Henfield areas within the last four weeks.
Last year only six homes were targeted by thieves in the same time period.
Police have warned isolated homes are being targeted in the afternoon and early evening by burglars who are mainly stealing jewellery.
Pulborough and Billingshurst have experienced the worst of the latest offences, in which two vehicles have often been seen and also two men together.
Of these 22 reported crimes police said 14 took place between December 5 and December 19 and were believed to be carried out by the same group.
Detective Inspector Jim McKnight said: “On many previous occasions members of the public have provided the information that has led to offenders for such offences being arrested.
“My team is eager to hear from anyone with information that could assist this enquiry and they are urged to get in touch. We’d also welcome early reporting to police of any incident, person or vehicle that is viewed with suspicion.
“West Sussex remains a safe place to live, work and visit and currently we have extra patrols operating in the affected areas.”
Crawley and Mid Sussex have also seen a rise in burglaries.
Security firm Security 201, which works in partnership with Sussex Police, said homes in East Grinstead, Burgess Hill, Hurstpierpoint, Lindfield, Hassocks, Balcombe, Crawley Down and Handcross had also been targeted.
Bitsy Browne, Manager at Security 201 said: “Due to the recent increase in burglaries within the West Sussex and Horsham areas, we are working closely with the Sussex Police Crime Prevention Officers by providing them with a car to visit victims of burglary.
“We hope that by following our advice fewer homes fall victims of crime during the forthcoming festivities.
“We strongly advise homeowners in the West Sussex and Horsham regions to be extra vigilant during the Christmas and New Year period and to follow our guidelines to help protect their properties.”
The organisations have released the following safety advice:
• Lock doors and windows at all times, and using a burglar alarm if available.
• Keep keys, cash, bags and phones out of sight and out of reach from doors, windows and letter-boxes. Thieves will use rods to reach them and then use keys to gain entry. In one third of burglaries, no force was used to get in.
• When displaying a Christmas tree, keep presents away from prying eyes - draw curtains and lower blinds.
• Use timer switches on lights and radios to make your home look occupied, even when it isn’t. When away, draw curtains and ask neighbours to keep an eye on your property.
• Dispose of packaging carefully. Empty boxes awaiting collection and bins full of packaging are a perfect advert for burglars.
• Never leave door or car keys, wallets or handbags within reach of a letter box, door or window. Never leave keys in the door either, as this can make it easy for a burglar to reach in and unlock the door
• Securely store all valuable and irreplaceable items in a safe
• Before going away on holiday cancel milk, newspaper and other regular deliveries and ask a friend or your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme to keep an eye on your home while you are away
• Protect the rear of you property, closing and locking all gates and do not leave tools and ladders in your garden. If you have out buildings make sure they are locked
• Use free and secure registration websites, such as www.immobilise.com to register valuable items, such as computers and laptops, mobile phones, cycles and electrical items.
For further security advice visit www.sussex.police.uk/burglary or http://www.security201.co.uk/
Anyone seeing or hearing anything suspicious is asked to note down what details they can, including descriptions and car registration numbers.
If you believe a crime is in progress or about to be committed, you should call 999.
Otherwise, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 101, quoting Operation Rocklane. There is also the alternative of contacting the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 (www.crimestoppers-uk.org).
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