"These despicable individuals will literally ransack properties"
Criminals are targeting South Asian-owned homes in Surrey for gold as a police heat map shows.
More than 30 burglaries have been connected to one or more organised groups since July 2020.
The map shows how concentrated high-value thefts have been since Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were eased.
Many of the victims are of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. These communities sometimes keep gold for cultural reasons.
Detectives have said that “organised” criminals were working in the Surrey area. They have warned people who had gold in their homes to take extra precautions amid the threat of more raids.
The burglars usually work in teams of three or four and have been raiding homes without fear of being seen.
High purity gold is mainly targeted as well as wedding jewellery and family heirlooms.
A Surrey Police spokesperson said: “We believe around 30 burglaries and attempted burglaries since July 2020 may be connected to one or more organised criminal groups operating across the UK.
“Some of the pieces taken were wedding jewellery, or heirlooms handed down through generations, with great sentimental value.
“Many of the victims held gold and jewellery in place of life savings and some had not been able to insure them.”
Detective Superintendent Wendy Whiting said:
“These despicable individuals will literally ransack properties – pulling off bath panels, ripping up floorboards and turning over lofts if they believe there is gold hidden in the house.
“Unlike many burglars, they are not shy of being seen – if disturbed they may threaten the occupants rather than immediately fleeing.
“Today Surrey Police is releasing a heat map of these burglaries since July 1, to show how widespread the problem is. Although there has been a focus on Spelthorne in the north of Surrey, people across the county need to be aware of the risk and take steps now to protect their property.”
DS Whiting went on to say that the amount of jewellery inside the homes is the reason for being targeted. She also issued several precautions that citizens can take.
“We are asking anyone who has large amounts of gold or jewellery to store your valuables securely in a safety deposit box or bank vault.
“If you have to keep gold at home, install a safe that meets British Standard EN 1143-1 and the police recognised ‘Secured By Design’ standards.
“The safe needs to be securely attached to the building (ideally bolted to, or embedded in, a solid concrete floor).
“Add other security measures such as CCTV, alarms and security marking your jewellery with a forensic marking product.
“Don’t advertise your jewellery or when you are away, online – don’t post photos of your jewellery on social media and be careful mentioning holidays or extended absences from home.
“When wearing jewellery for a special event, keep it covered until you are indoors and with people you trust.
“During Navratri (which ended on Sunday) and Diwali, avoid decorating the outside of your house or car with religious or celebration symbols (flags, lights or other emblems) as these can advertise to thieves that you may have gold present.
“It is possible that thieves may be following expensive cars from workplaces, restaurants or places of worship.”
“They may even be tracking them with GPS devices. Try to park your vehicle in a secure area, or vary where you park.
“The thieves must be either following the occupants; possibly home from temple or celebration events; or they are carrying out reconnaissance on the homes before they strike.
“We believe that the burglary teams are travelling to their targets in a single car, and often park directly opposite or right outside, so please be vigilant – especially if the car has more than one occupant.
“If you suspect a vehicle or individuals either in your area or following someone, we need to know about it promptly.”
Anyone who suspects a vehicle or individuals or is urged to message police through the website, via Facebook or Twitter or call 101.
Anyone who is at risk of this type of crime and would like advice on crime prevention can send a private message to their local borough policing team through Facebook.
Details will be passed to a local Designing Out Crime Office, who will make contact.