Police in North Herts are urging householders to protect themselves against break-ins after a surge in burglaries across North Herts in recent weeks.

There have been a total of 84 break-ins at homes in the area since September, they confirmed this afternoon – 29 in Hitchin, 24 in Letchworth, 22 in Royston and another nine in Baldock.

That’s an increase of five per cent compared with the same period last year, with the steepest rise in Royston, where the 32 per cent increase equates to seven more crimes.

In most of the burglaries, offenders get in through gates to back gardens at the side of homes that have been left unlocked, and then break in through PVCu rear or side doors and windows that haven’t been double locked.

Chief Insp Julie Wheatley, who heads the North Herts police team, said: “Although we haven’t seen a major increase across the whole of North Herts, even a slight one is a concern for us.

“We will do everything we can to put a stop to these crimes and will be directing policing resources to hotspot areas, particularly Royston.

“Burglary can have a long-term effect on the lives of victims. As the evenings are now getting darker earlier and with Christmas on the horizon, the risk increases and, while we are working hard to prevent burglaries in North Herts, we are urging residents to take some simple steps to help keep their properties more secure.

“Make sure all doors and windows are fully locked before leaving your property unattended and consider installing a timer switch to turn on lights when it gets dark to make it appear that someone is at home.

“My officers will be out and about on proactive, highly visible and covert patrols over the coming weeks to stop burglars in their tracks and prevent break-ins.

“I would also ask members of the public to be vigilant, if you see someone acting suspiciously in the area or notice an unfamiliar car in your street that seems out of the ordinary, please contact us on the non-emergency number 101 or 999 if you believe a crime is in progress.”

Crime prevention advice from Herts Police includes:

Make sure you double-lock any PVCu doors by lifting the handle and locking it (to engage the security features) before you go to bed or leave your home (if you remove the key make sure you have a fire escape plan).

Check all doors are locked and all windows, including those upstairs, are secure before you go out.

Consider installing alarms and ‘dusk to dawn’ security lighting.

Secure your rear garden - lock your shed, shut and lock any gates and keep fences maintained. Don’t leave ladders and tools outside - they could be used by a burglar.

Use timer switches on lamps to give the impression somebody is at home.

At home, keep all loose valuables out of sight of any would-be thieves.

Don’t leave any boxes which advertise to thieves what’s available in your home outside by the dustbin. Where possible, keep your wheelie bin a good distance behind the gate or fence to prevent them being used to get into the garden.

Post code marking your valuables with a UV pen and registering them on a free property database like www.immobilise.com can work as a deterrent to thieves and can increase the chances of your property being recovered if it is stolen.

Householders can also help in the fight against crime by joining Neighbourhood Watch. Members receive regular information via the OWL messaging system which updates on crimes happening in local areas and give tips on crime prevention. Being part of the scheme can create a sense of community, give you peace of mind and even reduce your home insurance. You can join OWL and Neighbourhood Watch by contacting your local Safer Neighbourhood Team via the non-emergency number 101.