Protect your homes from burglaries

Government appoints special task force as break-ins see record rise.

20 March 2013

GENDARMERIES and police stations are creating new groups to focus on burglaries after figures showed a marked rise in break-ins.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the fight against burglaries, which are markedly up everywhere, but above all in the suburbs and rural areas is “one of my priorities”.

Crime figures show that a burglary is now committed somewhere in mainland France about every two minutes.

“Specialist brigades against this should be developed everywhere”, said Valls. According to Valls, burglaries are committed by “very organised groups, which often come from abroad – Georgians, Bulgarians, Romanians – and who we need to combat not just at national level but at the European level too”.

Figures published by the official crime statistics body Observatoire National de la Délinquance et des Réponses Pénales (ONDRP) show burglaries rose steeply in 2012 compared to 2011. The effect was most notable in areas policed by the gendarmerie (ie. rural ones), up 14.7% to 86,240 in main resi- dences in mainland France. In areas covered by the police nation- ale (usually larger towns and cities) they rose 4.7% to 132,834.

This is the first time that figures have been separated out by police nationale and gendarmerie areas. This came on top of an even larger increase last year of 21.5% in the gendarmerie areas. The last five years saw a total rise of 70% in the rural areas, or an extra 35,000 crimes a year, and 33% in the urban ones.

Areas especially affected include the Aude (Languedoc-Roussillon), Indre-et-Loire (Centre), Loire-Atlantique (Pays de la Loire) and three Breton departments – Ile-et-Vilaine, Morbihan and Finistère.

ONDRP director Christophe Soullez said: “There are various hypotheses as to the reasons for the rise, notably increases in the prices of raw materials like gold, which attracts burglars’ greed.”

“We are also seeing more and more professional criminal networks that are focussing on burglary and are very well-organised. They are sometimes organised by individuals outside the country, for example from Eastern Europe, and they make use of people – sometimes minors – to commit several, even dozens, of burglaries, in a very short time.”

The involvement of foreign criminals is a proven fact from arrests that have been made, he said.

“That is, at least, when they are caught, because it’s a kind of crime for which detection rates are unfortunately quite poor. Most of those responsible get away with it. Another reason for the rise is that criminals see it as a fairly low-risk crime, compared to for example drug smuggling or armed robbery.”

He said one reason for the rise in gendarmerie areas is less dense police coverage.

“Burglars can act and get away with less chance of being seen. It is also often premises that are less protected in terms of alarms and secure doors than in urban areas. It’s much easier to burgle in the countryside than in the middle of Paris.”

Nonetheless there is a high percent- age of failed burglaries, he said – around 70%.

“They may simply fail to force the door. If a burglary is to take place it must be very quick.”

■ Burglars’ symbols: The police nationale say some burglars are in the habit of chalking symbols on people’s doors or walls as a tip-off to partners in crime, such as a series of ovals to indicate money inside or a row of pointed teeth to warn of a dog. The website of the police nationale says that if you see such symbols you should tell the police and rub them off. However Sociology professor Jean-Bruno Renard of Montpellier II university calls them “an urban myth” that may have been “partially true” a century ago.

To protect yourself from burglaries:

■ Arrange for your mail to be collected by neighbours or for- warded as an overflowing mailbox shows you are away.
■ Do not leave a message on your landline number mentioning how long you are away for – transfer calls to your mobile or another line.
■ The illusion of the home being lived in can be created by timer systems allowing you to programme the lights, television or radio to come on at certain times while you are away.
■ Fit locks approved by standards body Afnor and have window bars and/or shutters. Do not leave ladders accessible. n Take photos of valuables to help the police in the case of them being stolen. If a burglary does take place, touch nothing and call the police.

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