Norwich Beat the Burglar campaign launched
The clocks going back might be the first sign of winter being on its way, but it also provides an open invitation to opportunistic burglars looking to cash in on rich pickings under the cover of darkness.
The number of reported burglaries in the week from October 30 to November 5 last year saw an average increase of 26pc, according to research conducted by the insurer Aviva with 16 police forces across the UK.
But as part of a bid to beat the burglar, the Evening News has teamed up with Norwich police to try and offer advice about how people in the city can avoid becoming a victim themselves.
The Evening News will be running its Beat the Burglar campaign all week, offering readers information about how they can try to best protect themselves against becoming a victim and highlighting how burglaries are investigated and brought before the courts.
Today, with the clocks having gone back at the weekend, the Evening News talks to Detective Inspector Kathryn Thacker, based at Norwich's Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
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DI Thacker, who together with other detectives in the department is responsible for investigating burglaries in Norwich, said: 'These type of offences experience a slight rise at this time of year, as the evenings become darker earlier.
'Whilst Norfolk remains a safe county in which to live and such crimes are rare, it is important to remind members of the public for the need to remain vigilant and take some precautions to protect their homes.
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'Police are taking all available steps to identify and arrest the offenders and to increase public safety and reassurance.
'We fully support the 'Beat the Burglar' initiative and are keen to work together with the Evening News and the local community to prevent others becoming a victim of this distressing crime.'
Figures show there were 868 dwelling burglaries reported in Norfolk in 2011, which represents a 14pc reduction since this time last year.
Of these offences, 225 were reported in the Norwich area, which has had a 20pc reduction in burglary offences since 2010.
DI Thacker said precautions people can take to avoid being victims of burglary include:
Always keep doors and windows locked, even when your home is occupied.
Leave keys out of sight and away from insecure doors, windows or cat flaps.
Fit good quality door and window locks.
Consider fitting a letterbox cage to prevent access to door locks.
Good external lighting will help deter burglars when it's dark.
If your house is unoccupied, ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on it and use timers on internal lights to make it appear that someone is home.
With Christmas approaching, leave presents out of sight so that they are not a target for thieves.
Superintendent Stuart Gunn, of Norfolk Constabulary's Community Safety Department, said lapses in security can often give rise to opportunistic crime.
He said: 'Most burglaries are carried out by opportunist thieves. The darker nights can bring with them thieves using the cover of darkness to look out for lapses in security.
'People are advised to be aware and make use of simple crime prevention methods, which deprive thieves of the opportunity to steal.'
Attention should also be paid to the security of sheds and garages and to the property stored within. Parked cars should be left locked and secure with no property left on display.
Supt Gunn added: 'Norfolk is an extremely safe place to live and your chances of being burgled still remain extremely low, but you should look at your home through a burglar's eyes. Don't become an easy target.
'We would also urge householders to be good neighbours and call the police if anyone is spotted acting suspiciously in their neighbourhood.'
But the darker nights at this time of year do not only present a problem for police and victims of crime; insurance companies experience a rise in calls as well.
Rob Townend, property claims director at Aviva, said: 'Shorter days present more opportunities for criminals to work under cover of darkness.
'On Bonfire Night, in particular, many people are out of the house at public displays or parties, and the noise of fireworks provides a distraction and means that suspicious sounds such as smashing glass aren't heard.'
Meanwhile, Aviva said there was typically a rise of 150pc in malicious damage claims to homes at Halloween, with damage to cars rising by 50pc and car thefts up by 20pc.
Mr Townend added: 'Unfortunately, the combination of darker nights and a mischievous occasion like Halloween or a noisy one like Bonfire Night presents too good an opportunity for some criminals to resist.'
You can report any information or suspicious activity, people or vehicles to police via the non emergency number 101 or by calling Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If you think a crime is in progress, always dial 999.
If you have any concerns or would like to speak to a local officer regarding crime prevention advice, you can contact your local Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) by calling 101 or by visiting www.norfolk.police.uk
Tomorrow: On patrol with the crime scene investigators
Make your home look occupied, even when you are not at home. Use timer switches for lights and radios.
How householders can avoid becoming a victim of crime
Around the home/garden:
Good outdoor lighting can put off a burglar.
Fit lights out of easy reach.
Make your home look occupied when you are out- don't leave your curtains closed during the daytime as this shows the house is empty. Use automatic timer switches to turn lights on when it gets dark and have radios on during the day.
Consider fitting a burglar alarm - make sure it is installed properly and works by a reputable installer.
A thorny hedge along the boundary of your property can put thieves off.
Burglars don't like gravel - it's noisy to walk on.
Always close your gate and secure it with a lock.
Trim back any hedges or plants that a burglar could hide behind.
For further crime prevention advice visit www.norfolk.police.uk.