Lights out burglaries

PUBLISHED: 10:08 12 March 2009 | UPDATED: 21:43 31 May 2010

Street lights   Picture: MICHAEL BOYTON (MEB_191108_Lights)

Street lights Picture: MICHAEL BOYTON (MEB_191108_Lights)

A VICTIM who had his house raided by burglars while his 15-year-old daughter was asleep upstairs believes Saffron Walden s street-light switch-off has made them more vulnerable to crime. Tony Gorman, who lives with his daughter on Winstanley Road, woke up

A VICTIM who had his house raided by burglars while his 15-year-old daughter was asleep upstairs believes Saffron Walden's street-light switch-off has made them more vulnerable to crime.

Tony Gorman, who lives with his daughter on Winstanley Road, woke up to find his front door open and hundreds of pounds worth of valuables missing.

"It's frightening to think that my daughter has a tendency to come downstairs in the night to get a drink of water," said Mr Gorman. "What could have happened if she had walked in on the burglary doesn't bare thinking about."

Police have linked the incident to another burglary that happened on the same night, again while the occupants were asleep upstairs, at a house on the neighbouring Cromwell Road.

This time a £30,000 Mercedes Benz E20 was stolen from outside the property after thieves broke in, searched the ground floor and found the keys.

"I'm certain they were coming after my car as well," said Mr Gorman whose high-performance ST Focus was parked on the drive. "This was a pre-planned attack and it's just fortunate that I keep my car keys upstairs."

Both burglaries happened overnight last Tuesday and on both occasions only the ground floor was searched.

Mr Gorman believes that Essex County Council's (ECC's) energy-saving scheme to switch off the town's street lights between midnight and 5am is partly responsible.

"We are definitely more vulnerable to this type of crime now that the lights are off," he said. "It is pitch black outside and even if you look out of the window you can't see anything. The whole street has been more on edge since the switch off."

Although the burglars did not get Mr Gorman's car they did steal his daughter's laptop computer as well as a digital camera and a collection of cosmetics worth a total of £400.

Campaigner to get the street lighting turned back on, Jackie Swatton, said: "Between 2004 and 2007, which is as far back as police records go, there have been no recorded burglaries on this cul-de-sac. But since the lights have been off there have been two."

Figures released by ECC suggest overall crime levels have fallen since the lights were turned off at night.

Anyone with information about the burglaries should contact Saffron Walden Police Station on 0300 333 4444 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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