Hampstead Garden Suburb residents ‘turn homes into Fort Knox’ to shield from moped burglars
11:00 13 February 2014
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Burglars roaming the streets of Hampstead Garden Suburb and laying siege to homes have forced families to fit bars onto windows and reinforce front doors to protect their properties.
A mother-of-two told the Ham&High she was aware of 12 burglaries in the Suburb since Christmas, including thieves ramming open front doors with their mopeds.
The woman, who lives in Gurney Drive and does not wish to be named, witnessed the terrifying sight of a helmet-clad intruder prowling through a neighbour’s home after seeing two men circling on mopeds.
She said: “They were driving up Gurney Drive and they slowed down and looked at my house. It was as if I wasn’t standing there.
“When they came round a second time I was in a bush on the phone to the police. I saw the lights go on in my neighbour’s house and I saw a man in a black helmet walking around in the house.”
Within minutes of the burglary on the evening of January 30, a police helicopter was circling Gurney Drive and officers attended on the ground, but were unable to catch the thieves.
The woman added: “You’d think it was Baghdad or the Gorbals, you don’t think in Hampstead Garden Suburb and The Bishops Avenue, you’re going to hear a police helicopter.
“I’m scared I could get burgled at any minute. It’s horrific what is going on.”
Residents are reportedly turning their houses into “Fort Knox”, spending thousands of pounds on state-of-the-art alarm systems, steel bars for front doors and metal bars for windows.
It is thought the burglary spree in the Suburb began in September when thieves rammed open the front door of a home in Brookland Rise with a moped and then ransacked the house while the elderly owner was sat in her chair.
Shockingly, a month later, the elderly lady suffered a second break-in as thieves rammed down her front door with a moped again before stealing valuables and fleeing.
In December, a foreign embassy, in Winnington Road, was targeted by thieves on a moped.
Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer said Barnet police were working with officers in Camden who were investigating similar burglaries. He said the police forces were working on intelligence-gathering.
He said: “This is a methodology that they have not come across before in using mopeds to try and ram front doors and then, because suspects are on mopeds, they are able to escape quickly down alleyways, making it difficult for police to pursue by car.
“It’s very high-profile and it’s very distressing. The police will catch these people but residents need to take precautions.”
Det Insp Paul Murray said: “We have not seen an increase in burglaries in the N2/NW11 area but an increase in the number cases where suspects are using mopeds, although this has seemed to have tailed off over the past couple of weeks.
“This is not a problem affecting only the residents in this area, but is a cross borough issue.
“We are working closely with colleagues in Camden, Islington and Haringey, who also experience this type of crime, to see if incidents are linked. Gathered and shared intelligence will assist us in implementing operations to tackle the problem.
“Extra patrols have been introduced and robbery car patrols have been directed to the area, as well as ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Reader) cars. There are proactive measures in place to identify the suspects behind these burglaries.
“Our advice to people is to ensure they have a sturdy front door with good locks. Keep gates closed and locked at all times where practicable. If they have an open driveway maybe think about having a chain or gates placed across them.
“We are asking residents to be vigilant and to report any sightings of people acting suspiciously on mopeds to police.”
Last month, the Ham&High reported that research from price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com found the N2 postcode, including the Suburb and East Finchley, had the fifth highest rate of home insurance claims for burglary in the country.