Residents of a row of houses in east Belfast are angry that burglars were able to operate just metres away from police during a bomb scare.
The area was cordoned off after a security alert
Eight homes on the Cumberland Road in Dundonald were ransacked after a hoax phone call on Saturday night.
One of the residents said most of those burgled were in their 70s and 80s.
A warning was given that a 500lb car bomb had been left in the street. The caller said he was from the Continuity IRA but no code word was used.
However, robbers used the alert to break in through the backs of the houses.
The houses were entered between midnight and 0100 BST on Sunday, as the security forces carried out two controlled explosions on the street.
Jewellery, keys and other goods were stolen.
One resident said they were furious that the burglars were able to break into their homes while the police were standing close by.
"We believe it was an elaborate set-up to burgle Cumberland Road," he said.
"Elderly people were left out in the rain for four hours."
Chief inspector Stephen Addley said the robbers knew what they were doing.
"What it does say is that this was clearly pre-planned," he said.
"We are led to believe, although our investigations are at an early stage, they knew where they were targeting, they knew the residents who were living in those properties and they also knew that the backs of those properties were exposed out into open land."
It is understood the car had been stolen in Newcastle about an hour before it was abandoned in Cumberland Road.
Police appealed to anyone who witnessed the stolen silver Toyota Carina being abandoned in Cumberland Drive, or its occupants, to contact them.