LOCK up your homes or lose your belongings – that’s the stark message from police fighting a battle against poor home security.
Officers from the Portsmouth Safer Neighbourhoods Team have launched burglary prevention patrols with a twist.
Instead of dropping leaflets through the letterbox, Sergeant Rob Sutton and his team have started going around to homes and trying the doors.
If they’re open, officers warn the residents of the danger they face.
Sgt Sutton said: ‘On Thursday night we covered about eight or nine streets, and we gained entry to 30 properties.’
‘Some of them are a bit taken aback and have no idea how bad their security is.
‘If we can get into their accommodation by opening their front door, we find them and just explain that if we can do it, it’s easy for Billy Burglar.’
Sgt Sutton said though it seemed like a sneaky approach, it got the message across to naive residents.
He said students were particularly vulnerable and were often surprised he was able to get into their homes with a simple turn of the doorknob.
He said: ‘Some of them come from very rural areas where doors are never locked and people leave their keys in the car, and they just don’t realise that it’s not like that here.
‘They’re really appreciative, because they’ve got expensive equipment like laptops, iPads and so on.
‘If they’ve got a laptop with coursework or their dissertation on it, it can be be very traumatic if they lose it.
‘They could lose years of work.
‘It’s not rocket science, we just want people to be safe.’
James Leighfield, 20, is a third-year digital media student who lives in Montgomerie Road, Somers Town.
His door was among those found to be unlocked by Sgt Sutton when he was out on patrol.
James said: ‘We actually spoke about it last night and said we were going to lock it more. I think there are quite a lot of people who are naive enough that they just don’t think about it.
‘I think this will get them thinking more about how they lock their doors.’
Sgt Sutton said police would continue patrols over the next month, and would hopefully find no unlocked doors by the time it was finished.
Operation echos Christmas blitz on careless staff
POLICE undertook a similar exercise three years ago in the lead up to Christmas - with surprising results.
Sgt Rob Sutton and his team blitzed high street stores to highlight security flaws by ‘stealing’ what they could.
The team pilfered about £2,500 worth of goods from stores in Commercial Road and Gunwharf Quays under the noses of inattentive staff, before issuing a warning to shopkeepers.
The haul included a Christmas tree, a fur coat and two ball gowns. ‘We were quite blatant - we wanted to see what we could get away with,’ Sgt Sutton said.
Crime prevention walk was a real eye-opener
Comment by Stuart Anderson
POLICE officers pushing people’s doors open, Sergeant Rob Sutton admits, certainly has shock value.
But when you realise just how many people fail to take the basic precaution of locking their door, it’s not surprising the police use that approach.
He said: ‘It’s a bit of a scare tactic, but it is really to emphasise how easy it is.
‘Just lock your door, that’s all we’re asking for.’
I joined Sgt Sutton on a burglary prevention patrol through an area between Somers Road and St Andrews Road in Somers Town.
Because of its proximity to the university, the area is sometimes known as ‘Studentville’, populated by many second-year students who have found their digs for the first time after leaving halls of residence.
Sgt Sutton said: ‘This is the time of year that we can see an increase in burglaries because when the students all move back in, they’re not so security conscious.’
As if to emphasise the point, the very first door he tried to open in Bradford Road, Somers Town, is unlocked.
There, we found 19-year-old Eloise Moller, who lives with five other students.
Sgt Sutton warns her about just how easy it would be for a burglar to come in and help themselves to valuables.
Eloise said she hadn’t realised the door was unlocked and was thankful for the advice.
She said: ‘It’s much appreciated. It’s a bit of an eye-opener as we were all the way down the corridor away from the front door. We’ll definitely lock it more often.
Sgt Sutton found one door unlocked for the second time in two nights, and at another address, the house keys were even left in the door.
We also passed houses with open curtains where laptops, TVs and other valuables were clearly visible just inches from the street.
‘They’re just advertising what they’ve got to burglars,’ said Sgt Sutton.
James Leighfield, 20, is a third year digital media student who lives in Montgomerie Road.
His door was also unlocked when Sgt Sutton tried it.
James said: ‘We actually spoke about it last night and said we were going to lock it more.
‘I think there are quite a lot of people who are naive enough that they just don’t think about it, but I think this will get them thinking more about how they lock their doors.’