Burglaries on the increase, but police chief not panicking yet

The chief of police for Whitby has said his team is coping well in catching criminals who break into people’s homes, despite an increase in burglaries.

Outbuildings, businesses and holiday cottages have all been targeted by opportunist thieves looking to make some money at the expense of others.

Whitby Police Inspector Andy Colbourne'w141822b'Picture by Gary Simpson

Whitby Police Inspector Andy Colbourne'w141822b'Picture by Gary Simpson

“Operation Hawk is working,” said Inspector Andy Colbourne, referring to the North Yorkshire Police campaign to tackle rural burglaries. “Where serious incidents have taken place, our response has been spot on.”

This year in Whitby there have been 34 burglaries in the town centre, whereas this time last year there were only six.

However, 28 of these occurred on one night - the allotment thefts at Prospect Hill.

Although this inflated town centre figures, there have been a number of well-publicised break-ins and thefts in both the town centre and outlying areas.

Spots targeted have included Wilf Noble building supplies, various caravan sites, rural outbuildings and three holiday cottages onAelfleda Terrace.

As was the case at Prospect Hill allotments, items that were taken are often high value electrical goods such as power tools.

The allotment break-ins appeared to be such a smooth operation that some suggested it was the work of an organised crime group. However, Insp Colbourne said this was not likely to be the case and a small group could have perpetrated the crime.

“There are very few individuals in Whitby who are causing crime. The ones that are, we are aware of.”

The idea of idyllic country living is actually making life easier for opportunist thieves.

“If they visit a farm in the Esk Valley, the chances of being spotted are very slim,” said Insp Colbourne. “It’s clear they have done their research.”

Even lifestock is not safe and in October a prized pygmy goat named Rory was taken from a smallholding in Mickleby.

“Lifestock is easy to steal,” explained Insp Colbourne. “It’s out there wandering on its own and it’s very difficult to trace back to an individual owner.”

North Yorkshire Police has been hit as hard as the rest of the public sector with funding cuts.

Where Whitby police once had seven sergeants there are now just two. Staffing levels have been determined based upon demand, and if crime increases over a long period, more officers may be brought in.

To counter this, police and support staff no longer walk a set beat and ‘flexibility’ is the key. A technique called Ringmaster means that at weekends, police may be moved into the town centre, while evenings may see more officers posted to rural hotspots.

But for Insp Colbourne, the increase in burglaries could simply be a matter of weather.

Thirty per cent of crime is cross-border, with thieves travelling down from Cleveland.

When the weather is poor, these criminals can not travel.

“We hope for bad weather, because if you are knee deep in snow, criminals are not going to drive down a lane.”

Vigilence is the key, Insp Colbourne concluded, and the easiest way to fight crime is for residents to keep an eye on their own property and look after vulnerable neighbours.