LEAFY Cramond and Barnton are today revealed as the housebreaking hotspots of Edinburgh.
Well-off residential areas dominate the list of most targeted homes in crime statistics broken down by beat for the first time by the Evening News.
Thieves breaking into homes to steal car keys before making off with vehicles is fuelling the trend.
“The objective of housebreaking is to steal people’s property to sell-on, perhaps to fund a habit if they’re a drug user,” said the city’s top housebreaking detective, DI Graham Grant.
“They resell the item to generate income, so absolutely more affluent areas are targeted.”
There were 65 reported cases this year in the Almond police beat that covers the suburbs – more than one a week on average.
The number of reported break-ins on the Almond beat dropped 13 per cent from last year – but the figure was still 14 per cent up on the five-year average.
Suburbs in Southside/Newington, Inverleith, the Meadows and Morningside, Corstorphine/Murrayfield and Colinton/Fairmilehead made up the top ten.
There was a steep spike in housebreakings after specialist units were centralised as part of the Police Scotland merger.
But cases have dropped again in recent years after police moved specialist officers back to Edinburgh.
DI Grant praised the work of detectives that saw the number of housebreakings drop by more than a fifth last year across the Capital.
“Officers and partners have worked hard and it’s been a successful year,” he said. “Housebreaking is our number one priority and we know it’s of concern to the people of Edinburgh.”
Using roadshows and other events with officers urging residents to protect their own homes contributed to the fall in cases, said DI Grant.
“We’re trying to help people to take measures themselves,” he said. “We target criminals and investigate but there’s still things people can do to make houses more difficult to break into.”
Security lighting, CCTV and strong locks were all relatively simple measures to deter housebreaking, said DI Grant.
He also stressed the numbers included a rise in attempted housebreakings, as opposed to successful crimes where property was taken.
DI Grant said housebreaking rates can rise and fall in areas as seasoned perpetrators are released from prison.
“Criminals favour specific areas,” he said. “An area may be close to their home, or they might feel comfortable in that area or it might fit their particular MO.
“It could be the style of house he favours – perhaps it has sash windows. We have spates in areas that are quite often the result of someone who is released from prison.”
DI Grant said his specialist team of detectives have stockpiled intelligence on housebreakers and can match crimes to offenders,
“We have a housebreaking team and that’s what we focus on and that’s what we do, that’s it, specialise in housebreakings. We’ve built up a vast amount of intelligence.”
All housebreakings are investigated by forensic teams who sweep crime scenes for clues, be it blood, shards of glass, footprints, fingerprints or evidence of tools used.
Yet housebreakings continue to be tough crimes to crack, said DI Grant – reflected in relatively low detection rates.
“Housebreakers are forensically aware, they are intending to avoid capture,” he said. “They’ll look out for CCTV, wear gloves or a balaclava.”
DI Grant said great strides had been made in disrupting organised crime connected to Edinburgh housebreakings – with a 20.7 per cent drop in cases last year.
“It’s had a massive impact. We’ve identified and acted upon the right people – you can detect crime or you can stop crime.”
Officers are also getting wise to new ways of operating for criminals, including selling stolen goods on websites such as eBay and Gumtree.
His team take an analytical approach, identifying hotspots and targeting it with high visibility patrols.
“It’s about getting that feedback from the community and I’d always encourage that, not just when a crime has occurred.
“If there’s something suspicious, a strange car in the area or man in the garden, that’s the kid of early action we’re looking for. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t – so phone it in.”
Further crime prevention advice is available at www.scotland.police.uk
TOMORROW: Focus on vandalism and fireraising