EXCLUSIVE: ‘Asian gold’ burglaries cut by 78 percent in Northampton after crackdown

Meeting about Asian gold thefts at Gateway Resource Centre, Mill Road, Northampton NNL-140706-183922009
Meeting about Asian gold thefts at Gateway Resource Centre, Mill Road, Northampton NNL-140706-183922009

A campaign to reduce the number of so-called ‘Asian gold thefts’ in Northampton resulted in a 78 percent drop in burglaries.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the Northampton Bangladeshi Association (NBA) on Saturday, following a spate of gold thefts over the last year within the Asian community in Spencer.

The security programme by Northamptonshire Police, Operation Backbone, introduced by the police in reponse to the thefts, asked residents to improve security in their own homes in six ways: lowering hedges, installing outdoor lighthing, making doors, windows and gates more secure and installing burglar alarms.

More than 15 households have already installed alarms and, during the meeting, police also announced that households who continue to make the changes will be provided with SmartWater, which usually costs £60 a home, free of charge.

Chief Inspector Mark Behan said: “Since we started the six-element security project earlier this year, Spencer has seen a 78 percent reduction in burglaries, with none at all in the last three months.

“We are pleased that the community have responded so positively and the reduction means we have been able to lower the priority of burglaries in this area. However, we are still operating a ‘ring of steel’ around the town, meaning that individuals who cross the borders will trigger a deployment of response cars. We are also planning to start discussions at St James Mosque with residents this month to consider further improvements.”

Commenting on the thefts themselves, he said: “Since we began the investigation we have found that burglars have been coming from three categories: from neighbouring counties, from countries as far away as Mexico, and from some within the county who, we believe, are using informants from within the Spencer community.”

Operation Backbone was put in place after Spencer residents complained that police were not doing enough in response to a high number gold burglaries within the Asian community, which came to a head when nine were committed in a short space of time at the end of last year.

Councillors, police and residents attended the meeting at the Gateway Resource Centre on Mill Road in Northampton.

Chair of the NBA, Jabeer Miah JP, said:

“After the first burglaries there was walk about starting a neighbourhood streetwatch scheme, but tham made some people feel even less secure and it was felt that police weren’t doing enough to prevent it.

“But we do also have to take responsibility for ourselves. With the SmartWater incentive to get people to improve their own security, it shows that everyone is doing their part and we are all working together to improve safety and lower crime in Spencer.

“I think this will continue to be quite successful.”

NBA executive manager, Habib Rahman explained: “The thefts happened because in the Asian community, especially around the typical wedding season in summer, people take their gold out of storage. So when it is in the house and daylight hours get shorter later in the year, this most likely attracts burglars.

“The attacks have not generally been violent, but it makes people feel vulnerable, it makes children feel scared to go upstairs to their own bedrooms at night.

“We all need to take steps to make people feel secure again.”

Northampton North MP Michael Ellis said: “Before I became an MP I worked in the criminal justice system and I have seen the lasting impact that burglary has on families, leaving them with feelings of invasion and insecurity.

“I’ve also experienced a burglary and neighbours, who saw suspicious things going on did nothing about it. We all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to reduce the risks and the more we work as one, the more likely we are to achieve results.

Northampton South MP, Brian Binley, added: “I know how hard the police have been working on this but, when it comes to solving crime like this, there is an element of responsibility to each other with is sometimes forgotten.

“We can be our neighbours’ keeper and protector and it is by helping each other that we help the police. We need to play as a team to crack this job - in Northampton we are one society and if we don’t believe that then we lessen our town.”

**SmartWater, which usually costs £60 per household, is an invisible liquid only visible under UV light. This means that, when it is put on objects, anyone who touches them can later be identified.