What are the residents, police, local council and on a larger scale, the government doing to decrease the amount of residential burglaries in the London borough of Brent, and in London on a whole?
Asks Mariam Mansour…
No strangers to hearing a neighbours recollection story of a break in and robbery in their home, residents all over the London borough of Brent are in a panic over the regular occurrence of hearing that yet another one of their neighbour’s home has been a target of residential burglary. In a survey conducted with 23 residents of Brent; 21 said that they were worried about their home being burgled.
With the seemingly never-ending fear that their home could be next or next again, 17 out of 23 had already had their homes broken into. I will be investigating residential burglaries in the London borough of Brent, aiming to see what is causing it, and who and how it should be tackled; if it can be.
According to the metropolitan police. Residential burglaries ‘are the theft, or attempted theft, from a building/premises (that is fit for habitation) where access is not authorised.’
From October 2012 to 2013, the metropolitan police crime figures showed, out of 57,465 burglaries recorded in London, 2,416 of them happened in the London Borough of Brent. While this number of residential burglaries had decreased to 2,416 from 3,045 in the previous year. Then again, from 2013-2014 it decreased from 2,416 to 2,153 with the total London residential robberies dropping from 57,465 t0 50,422.
Also, a lot of people do not call police to report burglaries/attempts as they believe that the police will not help them, which could mean that these statistics are not as representive of the true scale of residential robberies happening in Brent.
“I don’t know who needs to step up and work harder to reduce the amount of residential burglaries in Brent, but I just want to be able to feel safe in my home again and trust that there is someone that won’t take over 45 minutes to arrive and protect my kids and me, if the situation came up.
– Mrs Qeema Najafiya, from Welsh Harp, Brent.
Residential burglaries literally hit close to home. There is nothing more personal than having one’s home, and one’s privacy, invaded by an unwelcome outsider. Damaging the feelings of personal security and peace of mind; Victims of residential burglaries don’t really know what they want from the police or the council in the future to prevent further residential burglaries. It won’t get back what they lost, whether be it their personal sense of security and peace of mind or their valuables.
“The police made it clear that the case was closed a week later” said Ms Sarah Warren, from Willesden Green. Many victims of residential burglaries said that even though the police were helpful upon arrival after a break in, and called later on to check in on the victims, it still didn’t achieve anything in bringing back a feeling of safety into their homes.
“They (the police) were kind, helpful. Arrived within 30 minutes, collected finger prints, filled out a report, and told us how to change and secure the main ways a thieves usually enter the house from,” says Miss Isabella Martinez, from Mapesbury.
The police do however warn residents about visibly overprotecting their homes, while its an assumption that metal railings will keep thieves out, they will think that you have something to hide and target you anyway.
“They broke through the metal railings I had installed inside all the glass windows and conservatory, stole thousands, all my gold and perfumes; used my carpets as ashtrays. I’m almost 80 years old, if the strong metal railings are not going to protect me and the police can’t get any of it back, or catch the thief’s responsible, who will? Definitely not me!”
– Exclaimed Mrs Alice Watson, from Dollis Hill.
“The only one thing that I think would decrease the amount of residential burglaries is increasing the sentence of residential burglary offenders,” adds Ms Qeema Najafiya.
While most existing cases of convicts of residential burglary offences vary from some months to an average of 4-8 years, two cases that stood out in particular, R v Brien  who was a bogus caller got 8 years behind bars for distracting the home owner, before breaking in the residency. However, in another case, the burglar got only three years. R v Middlemiss .
A little closer to home, four members of Brent from the ages of 20-22 were sentenced to a total of 16 years imprisonment on the 22nd of October 2013 after pleading guilty of committing 60 acts of residential burglary in the borough of Brent.
Likewise, one man was alone responsible for 35 burglaries in Brent to fund his drug addiction Many people believe that repeat offenders need much harsher punishments because giving them a short sentence will mean that they will just come out and get back to their old habits, like the men who were caught breaking into a house right after they got out of jail.
“I installed a security alarm and my house has been broken into two times after the installation, the guy living seven doors down has faced the same problem, alarms are useless!”
– Claims Mr Tom Riddle, Welsh Harp.
Of the 23 people who completed the survey, 17 have had their residence burgled; only 7 have gone on to install a home security system, none of them had invested in a home insurance policy, this is because home insurance is much higher in boroughs that have higher residential burglary figures compared to a borough that has a low residential burglary statistic. “After the break in the only thing we did was change the fences in back garden, making them higher” replies Isabella Martinez.
With the small number of policemen in Brent, contrary to what many people believed. I discovered that the metropolitan police service’s Brent’s ex Chief Superintendent Matt Garden had acknowledged that residential burglaries were still at a high rate. He assured residents that the police were working to decrease the offences.
Commissioned by the Kilburn Times magazine, the previous chief superintendent gave valuable advice and information to readers in regards to securing their homes through a series of articles.
This led to the relaunch of Operation Bumblebee in 2009. Three different informative leaflets were created. Each leaflet was addressing one important aspect of burglaries and the best ways in which to prevent them. London metropolitan police also drove around and issued warnings over a public address system whenever a certain number of burglaries occurred in an area. So far this campaign has proved useful, as one thief was caught using SmartWater Technology this year.
Calling the ‘Cash Generators’ pawnshop in Willesden Green, I was referred to a manager, who refused outright to answer the simplest of questions regarding how they identify if an item they have bought is stolen through the use of smart water technology scanning, and also resorted to verbally abusing me on the phone.
While there are schemes like the neighbourhood watch, many people don’t believe they should have to ‘pry’ on their neighbours even if it is potentially saving their neighbour’s properties. However, some neighbours have taken it upon themselves to watch over the houses of their closest neighbours by making sure they pick up their post while they are on holiday, use their neighbours rubbish bins and other precautions, these are simple things to do to prevent burglaries, as many thieves check dustbins and monitor houses, planning in advance before breaking in.
Ms Salma Hassan said “They were obviously monitoring my house for a long time, they knew that I left the house at 3.10pm every day to pick up my children, and they knew I would be back by 3.30 at the latest, during that time they managed to find my gold which I had hidden wrapped up in my child’s sock drawer, these criminals are experts at what they do. It’s so scary, feeling like you’re being watched and studied by these thieves for such a long time”.
The police is are also active on Social Media, especially around the Christmas Season, giving tips to their followers on how they could protect their families and properties from burglaries, especially in the build up to Christmas, which for anyone who has watched a home alone movie, knows is the busiest season for residential burglaries.
The police help their followers get whatever they can to improve the security on their home’s but Ms Isabella Martinez claims “This is not enough, not everyone in the borough is on the internet, and sees these messages, regardless of how helpful they seem to be”.
So what can the police in the area do to actively and affectively spread the message to concerned residents of Brent? Ms Martinez suggests that they need to distribute this advice to homes every couple of years helping residents to better secure their homes, the council should be providing alarms, and providing more funding towards securing built up areas with more CCTV and security precautions and increasing police presence in the Wards with the most burglaries.
Ms Isabella continues “The police did what I believe is normal protocol, they visited us a week later, gave us a pen to mark our valuables with, told us what type of windows best withstand attempted break ins, and gave us a couple of leaflets from their Operation Bumblebee. The policeman then spoke to the neighbours in our area and also provided them with advice and further information”.
Adam, 18 from Kilburn, was alone twice at home when he heard the door being broken into. “I just want to feel safe in my home and not worry that someone will hurt me or my younger siblings”.