POLICE research has revealed ‘pockets’ of residents with home security so basic it leaves them vulnerable to house burglars in South Yorkshire.

Now Chief Constable Stephen Watson has given an assurance his force is working to address those deficiencies through offering ‘target hardening’ measures, which make it more difficult for burglaries to operate.

The force has already used Operation Shield, where residents in burglary-prone communities are given crime prevention assistance including the use of ‘smart water’ marking, where the contents of their home are marked with an invisible but unique fluid which acts as a finger-print so stolen property can be easily identified.

That means it is immediately unattractive to criminals because if caught with such items, they can be linked to the crime. Operation Shield has been used in Sheffield and Doncaster so far.

Mr Watson told South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings: “So much is about basic crime prevention. We are doing a lot of work drawing on the Crime Survey for England and Wales and localised surveys.

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“Very clearly there are pockets of people with only the most basic security. That is overlaid with a higher prevalence of burglary. It proves that some target hardening and crime prevention does work.”

He was speaking at a meeting of the PCC’s Public Accountability Board, where the force’s performance is examined and Mr Watson said burglary had been increasing, but had declined from a peak the county had experienced during 2018.

“We had a decrease to May and are now starting to see an increase,” he said.

However, break-ins are still more common in South Yorkshire than in similar areas elsewhere in the country.

The force is also working to help ensure this year’s intake of students recently arrived at the county’s universities and colleges are well protected from crime.

“New students particularly do become vulnerable targets for people who commit burglary,” he said.

“Where you have a fresher, first time from home and new to student accommodation, they can be targeted.

“We have a lot of plans in place, particularly with the major universities and colleges and we are doing a tremendous amount to protect people, it is a key part of freshers’ week.

“What we don’t want is bright young things embarking on an important factor of their lives and finding themselves on the back foot in the first few weeks.”

Burglaries that do not affect people’s homes, like business premises, have seen a ‘very substantial decrease’ since May, said Mr Watson.

Provided by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.