Chief Inspector says police are working as hard as they can to tackle “traumatic” burglaries

St Albans Chief Inspector Shane O'Neill

St Albans Chief Inspector Shane O'Neill - Credit: Sophie Crockett/Archant

St Albans’ top cop has said Herts police are working as hard as they can to stop the burglaries and violent crime plaguing the district.

According to the last round of figures issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of reported burglaries in the area rose by 27 per cent between September 2016 and September 2017, while offences of violence where a person was injured went up by 16 per cent.

In an exclusive interview with the Herts Advertiser, Chief Insp Shane O’Neill reassured residents that not only was Herts one of the safest places in the UK, but St Albans is one of the safest places in the county.

But he admitted: “The number of burglaries has gone up and that is concerning to everybody and something nobody wants to see. It is one of the most traumatic crimes people can suffer.

“One of our main priorities in St Albans is to prevent burglaries in the first place, but there are a number of factors going on here.”

The rise in burglaries and violent offences is not contained to St Albans however, as reported knife crime and robbery increased by 12 per cent in the UK between September 2016 and September 2017 and robbery increased by 39 per cent in Hertfordshire in the same period, according to ONS data.

Ch Insp O’Neill said: “The reporting of crime is getting better, but that does not hide the fact there is a real increase in numbers.

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“St Albans is a pretty affluent area and that’s well-advertised and we are having criminals travelling from London, Bedfordshire, and the Thames Valley.

“We are getting spikes in burglaries and then we see it withdrawing, but we are working as hard as we can by sharing intelligence with our neighbouring forces.”

One of the problems police have observed is the lack of any obvious burglary hot-spots. For example, recent weeks have seen several in Bricket Wood, but before then it was Harpenden and there were two burglaries on Southdown Road and Amenbury Lane in Harpenden last week.

“It’s a real challenge, but it’s a priority for us,” Chief Insp O’Neill said.

He revealed extra patrols were being put on during overtime and on rest days, and additional resources were being pulled in from Herts police headquarters.

Since December, 19 different burglary suspects have been arrested for offences in St Albans; many of whom have been charged.

The police have recently run a campaign to encourage homeowners to improve their security measures by locking doors and windows, installing timer switches to turn out lights and radios to make the house look like it is occupied, and embrace new gadgets such as video doorbells, which store images of people who call by your house.

Aside from burglaries, there have been a number of violent offences in the district, including the raid on a Colney Heath home in December.

Chief Insp O’Neill stressed such incidents are very rare and CCTV was making the recording of these crimes easier, but acknowledged there had been an increase in violent offences across the county.

He said: “Most of them are low-level offences such as pushing someone, an out-of-control dog or malicious texting.

“St Albans has a big night-time economy and that contributes to violent crime levels.”

Police have come under pressure due to an increasing number of emergency calls, which take them away from investigating burglaries, and Chief Insp O’Neill admitted: “We do not have enough resources to be proactive as we want to be.”

“It all seems very dramatic, but I do not think people need to be worried as crime is unlikely to happen.

“We want people to feel safe in their homes. That is a priority.”