Northamptonshire Police have told residents they can play a significant role in helping drive down the number of burglaries in the county.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said the Christmas period always saw a spike in the number of such crimes reported.
He was speaking as police released details of some of the more prolific burglars dealt with by the courts over the course of this year. They received sentences of up to four-and-a-half years in prison.
The force has launched a campaign, dubbed Operation Lock It, in a bid to encourage people to do all they can to avoid falling victim to opportunistic burglars.
And Mr Foster said the force’s efforts over the past 12 months had resulted in an almost nine per cent fall in home burglaries between April and November 2013 compared with the same period last year, which is equivalent to 167 fewer incidents.
Mr Foster said: “Last year we saw a rise in burglaries between November and March.
“Then, since March 2013 we have put a number of strategies in place to try and reduce the level of dwelling house burglary. There has also been a reduction in acquisitive crime, theft from, and of, motor vehicles.”
He has identified a number of burglary hotspots in the county, including the towns of Wellingborough, Kettering and Daventry, north east Northampton and a number of villages such as Kislingbury, to the west of Northampton.
“In vast residential areas burglars are usually local,” he added.
“In rural communities they usually travel in.”
He said one family’s festivities were spoilt last year when a burglar broke in and stole an Xbox from underneath the tree. At Christmas a lot of expensive items being left within easy reach of an opportunistic burglars, and Mr Foster added: “The trend picks up when the nights draw in. It spikes around Christmas.”
But he insisted it was not his intention to raise the fear of crime, adding: “I want to emphasise that people can help us. A third of burglaries are due to insecurities.
“We could reduce the number by a third with the public’s help. Operation Lock It is about putting the potential victims of crime on the front foot.”
He said people leaving windows and doors unsecured and ladders and car or house keys visible would encourage burglars.
He recommended that hedgerows and bushes are trimmed back so neighbours can see any suspicious activity, and added that one offender had even crawled through a dog flap.
Mr Foster warned that many victims also suffered a double whammy, with insurance companies often being reluctant to pay out in cases where people had not left their homes properly secured.
“Make your house look like it’s got the appearance of someone being in,” ACC Foster said.
“Dusk until dawn lighting won’t definitely prevent burglary but it will certainly reduce the chances.
“Where a burglary does occur, we want to make neighbours aware the incident has occurred. We’ve been pro-active – we have sent out a couple of hundred Christmas cards making sure burglars know they are still being watched.”
And he has issued this final appeal for the Christmas and New Year period: “Take responsibility for neighbours’ premises. Look after vulnerable neighbours and take care of your communities. Help us to help you.”