'Travelling gang of criminals' targeting Northern Ireland homes: Spate of 17 house burglaries in four days in Co Antrim
Police have warned of a travelling group of criminals after revealing a spate of 17 burglaries in the past four days.
Superintendent Muir Clark said, in the Newtownabbey area, there had been a spike in homes targeted.
He told the BBC's Stephen Nolan show: "In the last number of days, there has been a group of travelling criminals operating in the Glengormley area taking cars and property."
He described them as "young men" and believed they were using stolen cars to travel across the province.
The senior officer said he himself had been a victim of burglary in the past.
"It is a terrible, terrible experience and I don't want anyone else to suffer," he said.
Superintendent Clark said police had an operation ongoing to catch the thieves, who usually operated between the hours of 2.30am and 5.30am.
Police have also installed temporary electronic signs in the areas affected to warn people of the current spate.
Mr Clarke added: "If it looks suspicious, it probably is. Lift the phone and report it to us.
"A lot of burglaries are opportunistic so help us help you. Lock up after you and check you have done so before you go to bed."
The police officer revealed that in his area the clearance rate for burglaries - the number of times a thief was caught - was 8.6%.
He said he "expected" that rate to improve.
"There are people who know who is doing this and they need to contact us," he said.
"Also there is those people who are handling the stolen goods and I would ask them to contact us and tell them who is giving them the goods."
A PSNI spokesman outlined some of those incidents.
On Monday five break-ins were reported in Hillcrest Drive, Church Road, Glebe Villas and Cherrylands between the hours of 2.30am and 5.30am, he said.
Four attempts were also made on other homes.
The following night another five homes were entered in Blackrock Park, Alderly Place and Aylesbury Court.
Again all of the incidents are thought to have occurred between 2.20am and 5.30am.
On Wednesday two burglaries during the early hours were reported in Glenmount Drive and Longlands Avenue with a further attempted burglary in Ballyhenry Park.
Last night, Thursday, two homes were targeted. One in The Poplars and the other on Knockview Road.
The spokesman added: "Burglary is a priority for police within the Antrim and Newtownabbey area and we are working hard to build on the reduction we saw in November and address this recent spate.
"Additional police resources are being deployed in anti-burglary patrols and uniformed officers are working closely with colleagues in other departments to thoroughly investigate these reports.
"We have also been using social media to spread the word about home security and crime prevention and we have installed matrix signs displaying key messages in the affected areas.
"Anyone who notices any suspicious activity, particularly during the early hours, should report it to police immediately. Community information will be vital in helping us identify and apprehend the criminals responsible for the recent incidents. Police can be contacted on 101."