The Met has issued a London-wide warning that burglars are targeting Asian family homes in search of gold jewellery and heirlooms.
One elderly Asian couple have shared their own terrifying experience of having their home ransacked and even their wedding ring stolen, in the hope it will encourage others to be vigilant, especially throughout Navrati and Diwali.
The couple who are in their late 70s and early 80s have chosen to stay anonymous.
They were targeted by a gang of thieves earlier this year when, at around 8.30pm on Saturday, February 24, they were watching television in their home when they heard banging in the hallwall.
The 77-year-old woman went to investigate and found four masked men, one of whom pushed her back into the living room and demanded to be shown their ‘Asian gold’.
The others took the 82-year-old man upstairs as they searched the house for jewellery.
The men stole more than £1,000 worth of jewellery and cash including wedding rings, necklaces, bracelets and bank cards, and so far no one has been arrested.
The woman said: “These men came in through our open kitchen window and threatened my husband and I.
“They turned our house upside down and stole our jewellery, including my much-loved wedding ring.
“I would urge everyone to store their jewellery away from their home and properly secure their doors and windows.”
According to the Met, last financial year there were 1,891 burglaries with Asian victims having 6,369 items of jewellery stolen – worth a staggering £9 million.
Generally burglars managed to enter through front doors, patio doors or a window.
Police say they have intelligence that organised criminal networks are involved in this lucrative ‘family gold theft’. Various communities are being targeted, including families from Asian, Jewish and Maltese backgrounds.
The burglars have been known to rip up floorboards, remove bath panels and rip out safes.
People are encouraged to photograph their valuables to help trace them if stolen, mark jewellery with SmartWater or a similar traceable liquid, consider CCTV and burglar alarms as a deterrent, and avoid keeping jewellery in bedrooms and bathrooms as often this is the first place burglars look.
You can also keep jewellery safe with the National Pawnbrokers Associations rather than in a safe. However, if you do keep them in a safe, make sure it is secured to the wall or floor.
Police say the festival period sees a spike in burglaries – attributed to more jewellery been worn in public as people travel to attend events.
In response, the Met has set up ‘Operation Nugget’. Detective Constable Lisa Keely said: “Gold will continue to be highly desired by criminals due to the speed and anonymity with which it can be exchanged for large sums of cash.
“These pieces of gold and jewellery are not just valuable possessions, they are also of great sentimental value, and if stolen, would have a huge impact on owners.
“Our proactive measures to tackle these crimes has seen reductions in offences, however there is more to be done.
“As part of this work, we urge Londoners to take action to safeguard their gold and jewellery by following our simple crime prevention advice.”
Anyone with information about the crime above is asked to contact Detective Constable Lisa Keely, based at Kingston Police Station, on 101.
If you do not want to give your name you contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
To find out more on how to protect yourself and your property visit: www.met.police.uk/crime-prevention