Village hopping burglars leave residents fearing for their property in Milton Keynes

Travelling gangs of burglars who hop from village to village have left rural residents fearing for their property, a meeting heard.

And despite the numbers of home break-ins dropping, members of the SaferMK Partnership asked police not to take their eyes off the ball when it comes to this particularly distressing crime.

Councillor Phil Ayles, of Castlethorpe Parish Council, told Thursday’s meeting (April 18) that he was concerned about burglaries and the level of attention they are getting.

Cllr Ayles said that police had advised his council that there were gangs moving from village to village before popping up in South Bedfordshire.

“It is good news that the number of burglaries has gone down but don’t take your eyes off the ball. It is a distressing crime. Is it down to serendipity that the number of burglaries has fallen, or as a result of some actions taken?” he asked.

Det Chief Insp Steve Raffield, representing Milton Keynes police on the committee, agreed that travelling gangs moving into the area and moving on had been responsible for a percentage of crime, which is difficult to detect and “get into court.”

But he added that the police “won’t take our eyes off the ball. This type of crime tends to go in peaks and troughs. The important thing for me is the speed at which we react, and we will do that.”

The committee was discussing three priorities it will set for action during the year. Burglary and car crime does not appear on the list of three priority areas for the committee.

They have chosen to focus activities for the partnership, which includes the council, police, and youth offending teams, to be non-domestic violence, domestic abuse, and hate crime, which have all increased recently.

Cllr Hannah O’Neill, who chairs the partnership, said surveys show that people are ‘really worried’ about becoming victims of burglary despite the actual risk of being a victim being relatively small.

The committee was told that the number of burglaries had fallen by 4.7 per cent from 1,563 in 2017 to 1,490 in 2018, with the downward trend carrying on into 2019.

“With issues like violence, all members of the partnership can be involved but with issues like car crime, not all the partners can be involved,” Cllr O’Neill said, adding that some issues can be dealt with by anti-crime messages, such as leaving lights on at home, or not leaving valuable items on view in cars.

“Some issues are stronger propositions for a partnership, while others can be dealt with by a communications plan,” she said.

Given that violence, domestic abuse and hate crimes driven by right-wing ideology are increasing in the city, they make urgent items that need to be dealt with when resources are scarce.

Mark Wolski, MK Council’s community cohesion manager, said: “Not everything can be a priority.”

And Det Chief Inspt Steve Raffield, of Milton Keynes police, said: “We have got to be careful that we are not prioritising everything. Car crime is not in the Thames Valley Police strategic plan while improving the investigation of all crimes is.”

This he said meant that if all crimes were better investigated, the result would have the desired result.