Police 'are powerless to stop burglars'

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The Independent Online

Nearly one in three people believe police officers are powerless to stop burglars ransacking their homes, despite recent government pledges to combat crime, says a new report. For anybody returning home from the Christmas holiday to find their home burgled, the study will merely enforce a growing belief that the battle against crime is being lost.

Nearly one in three people believe police officers are powerless to stop burglars ransacking their homes, despite recent government pledges to combat crime, says a new report. For anybody returning home from the Christmas holiday to find their home burgled, the study will merely enforce a growing belief that the battle against crime is being lost.

Half of all homeowners also think that tough security measures, such as burglar alarms, are futile. Most believe that determined criminals will break in regardless, according to the market analyst group Mintel.

The findings fly in the face of an upsurge in the home security market, which has grown by 21 per cent over the past five years, and is now worth £431m.

There is a widespread feeling that the criminal justice system has gone soft on burglars. Although ministers pushed through new laws two years ago to ensure that serial burglars receive custodial sentences, this month Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, ordered judges to stop sending first-time burglars to jail.

Lord Woolf issued new guidelines which state that burglars facing jail sentences of up to 18 months should be given a community punishment instead. Last week, however, he appeared to back down over his directive by sending an email to every court, advising magistrates to ignore the guidelines until further notice.

In the report, 29 per cent said the police would not be able to stop their house from being burgled, with 28 per cent believing that vandalism and burglary are increasing.

Fear of being burgled was a major concern, with 23 per cent saying that they were worried about break-ins.