POLICE have advised people to take their car keys “up to bed at night” after a spate of robberies in an affluent city suburb.
Members of the Grange and Prestonfield community council were told by their local community officer that the recent crime spree was the “worst she had seen” in 12 years with the force.
The south Edinburgh neighbourhood has seen the number of break-ins rise 20 per cent on last year, with more than 30 reported in one month alone.
The rise has been linked to new car security measures, which make it almost impossible to steal high-value vehicles without the keys.
Hiding keys and other valuable upstairs, say police, would help protect them against cat burglars who often prey on ground-floor rooms so not to wake the occupants.
Calls were today made for greater police protection for the area.
Kenny Kemp, a resident who attended the meeting, said he was “shocked” by the advice.
He said: “The community policewoman told us this was the worst spate of break-ins she had seen in her 12-year career. She said that criminals were breaking into houses through ground-floor windows and stealing car keys before taking expensive cars in the driveway.
“Because it’s becoming more difficult to hot-wire a car, thieves need to get the fob keys to start the ignition.
“These are higher value cars that are being nicked. She advised people to take their car keys up to bed with them and not to leave belongings downstairs. I was shocked this was the advice of the police.”
Modern advances in security technology have helped to thwart the efforts of would-be car thieves through the introduction of immobilisers, which prevent the engine from turning without receiving a signal from the correct key.
Councillor Cameron Rose, a former police inspector, said that the Grange was facing an “ongoing problem that has not been properly dealt with yet”.
He said: “There’s been a theme in recent months of criminals targeting cars outside people’s homes by breaking in and stealing the keys.
“The police have put out a message saying ‘do not leave keys lying around’. Between January and April there have been 95 break-ins and attempted break-ins for the whole ward, not just the Grange, which is a 15 per cent or 20 per cent rise on last year.
“We need sufficient resources to combat what has been a significant increase in break-ins. Police need to escalate their response, however they do that, to catch those responsible.”
A police spokesman said high-visibility patrols had been deployed and plain clothes officers had been monitoring streets in the Grange, which had led to arrests.
“Affluent areas can be an attractive target and, whenever we identify a location that has been or is potentially vulnerable, appropriate resources will be deployed,” he said.
“Residents were also spoken to and offered advice to ensure their property was not subject to a housebreaking.
“As a result of this action, a number of people have been arrested and housebreakings and attempted housebreakings have fallen.”
“We will continue to engage with our local communities to identify and address any issues or concerns they raise.”