A senior police officer has called on courts to get tough on burglars by imposing custodial sentences reflecting victims’ trauma.
New figures show that burglaries in Londonderry have shot up a staggering 20% in the past 12 months after a 15-year low.
While fighting this type of crime tops the police agenda in Derry, Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said the public have an important role to play by making homes secure.
Mr Burrows said: “While our detection rate for burglaries is actually higher than anywhere else in Northern Ireland, reducing the current figure is my absolute priority.
“Since October, I have dedicated two additional cars to patrolling burglar hotspots and this will continue until March.
“As well as this we have carried out 250 curfew checks and made 40 arrests for curfew breaches and arrested and charged 17 people with burglary.
“While we are doing our utmost it has to be said that 75% of the cases are ‘walk-ins' rather than ‘break-ins' so I’d urge residents to make sure their doors and windows are locked at all times.
“The people to blame in all of this are the burglars but the public have a responsibility to help the police too by taking steps to protect themselves.”
A breakdown of the latest figures show that 325 households fell foul of burglars this year and within the past two weeks a total of 20 homes were targeted.
Mr Burrows said he would like to see the guilty behind bars.
He said: “Sentences are a matter for the courts.
“However I feel it should be reflective of the trauma suffered by the families who have had their home and belongings burglarised. A custodial sentence is, in my view, entirely appropriate.”
Gerry and Annette Harkin have had their home in Derry burgled twice and their young family is still deeply affected.
Mr Harkin said: “I have two daughters and I have to lie beside the 11-year-old when she goes to bed.
“Her bedtime is my bedtime.”
“My son sleeps with a baseball bat beside his bed because he swears the burglar looked at him.
“Whether he would use it or not I don't know, but it’s a comfort to him.”
In the New Year, the police in Derry will launch a major information campaign letting people know how best to protect themselves against burglars.
Every household will receive a leaflet with the Top Ten Tips on safeguarding homes and property with a poster distribution.