Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Burglary rises 'not inevitable'

Jacqui Smith: We need to act before there's a problem

The recession should not inevitably lead to more burglaries despite past increases, the home secretary has said.

Jacqui Smith told the BBC while it had been the "historical situation", it was not a foregone conclusion this time.

But burglaries in England and Wales started to rise at the end of 2008 - the first increase in seven years.

Ms Smith's comments came as she held a "burglary summit" for police, insurance firms, DIY stores and charities for elderly people in England and Wales.

Best protection

The home secretary's summit also coincided with the beginning of a crime prevention campaign.

Part of securing your home graphic

The Home Office has introduced a three-minute test on its website where people can judge how secure their homes are from burglary.

Figures show burglaries increased by 4% between July and September, compared with the similar period in 2007.

There were 69,000 break-ins at homes in England and Wales during the three-month period.

Burglaries of commercial premises were also up.

Ms Smith told BBC Breakfast she wanted to "get on the front foot" adding: "I think it's important that we act before there's a problem.

"I want to make sure that we're providing people with the best possible advice to protect their homes, that we're bringing together the partners that can help to keep burglary down."

Security fund

BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said that over the past 30 years, burglary rates appeared to have peaked at times of economic hardship, like the mid-1980s and the early 1990s.

But Ms Smith told the BBC: "My argument is that has been the historic situation.

"I don't think there is anything inevitable about that happening this time."

One victim on how burglary affected her

The summit, which also involves Neighbourhood Watch representatives, aims to work out ways of limiting opportunities for burglars.

It has been backed by a special fund to help people on low incomes improve their security.

The home security tests asks questions related to 14 different aspects of home security, such as whether people lock their doors while they are out, whether they have lockable windows and whether they have written down serial numbers of valuable objects.

At the end of the test they will get a score for their level of protection and advice on how to increase it.

The initiative comes as police warn householders to beware of what they believe is the growing problem of "car key burglary", in which a person's car keys are stolen from their home.

Because of improved car security, many vehicles now cannot be stolen without the keys and the Association of Chief Police Officers said this kind of targeted theft now accounted for 8% of all break-ins.

Last year, a leaked memo from Ms Smith to Gordon Brown warned of a likely increase in "acquisitive" crimes, including burglary, as a result of the economic downturn.

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Yorkshire Post Serial burglars less likely to be jailed say Tories - 25 hrs ago
Bucks Free Press Rise in burglary 'not inevitable' - 25 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Shops to stop teenagers buying knives - 34 hrs ago
Haringey Independent Government 'soft on burglars' - 35 hrs ago

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