[Image: Example of Asian gold stolen in recent Little Heath, Romford burglary]
The Metropolitan Police Service has today, Thursday, 5 November, revealed the extent of Asian gold theft throughout the capital, with £45 million worth of gold and jewellery stolen from Asian families in London last year (financial year 2014/15).
The Met is warning Londoners to guard against gangs of thieves targeting gold jewellery during Diwali celebrations - the five-day festival of light that takes place next week, Wednesday, 11 November.
Intelligence analysis has shown organised criminal networks are increasingly involved in lucrative 'family gold theft' which disproportionately affects Asian families across various hotspots across the capital.
Combined with the annual rise in burglary and robbery at this time of year and as the nights draw in, this makes Asian communities particularly vulnerable to thieves keen to cash in on the buoyant market for gold being sold through second hand outlets.
To help prevent these offences, the public are advised to take the following precautions:
- Make a photographic record of valuables so that you can prove ownership for insurance purposes in case you become a victim, and use a traceable liquid, such as Smartwater®, which gives police the best chance of reuniting victims with their stolen items if recovered.
The website www.securedbydesign.com provides information on traceable liquids.
- Install burglar alarms and CCTV as a deterrent.
- If you do wear valuables out, cover them up so you don't draw attention to them.
- Leave gold at home in a safe secured to a wall or floor.
- When out, keep to well lit areas and try not to travel alone.
The festival period tends to see a spike in this type of crime largely due to more gold and jewellery being worn as the local community travel across London to different venues - whether temples or other people's homes.
The Met has stepped up its efforts to tackle gold thieves through Operation Nugget, which seeks to drive down the numbers of offences and bring more perpetrators to justice through a series of different initiatives.
A detailed intelligence report was compiled by analysts using data from the first phase of Operation Nugget at the end of 2013. Met officers dealing with gold-related crimes had been asked to 'flag' it on crime records for the first time in order to better assess the scale and nature of the problem.
Last year [financial year 2014/15] offences where gold or jewellery was stolen from Asian families fell by 23.7 per cent across the Met compared with the previous financial year [1,324 fewer offences].
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Corrigan, the Met lead for Operation Nugget, is spearheading a multi-pronged approach to tackle the problem of gold crime by addressing the issues on a series of different fronts.
This includes the marking of gold and jewellery, working with partners to offer secure storage facilities to store precious items and building community contacts via the Family Gold Network.
DCI Jane Corrigan, 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 worth, 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."
DCI Corrigan is also working to further increase the use of Smartwater® traceable liquid under the MetTrace programme, which is being rolled out across the capital. The invisible liquid allows people to mark their gold and jewellery with a unique forensic code. Owners can then place warning stickers in the windows to deter burglars. This code can then be used by police to trace items should they ever be stolen and link suspects to crime scenes.
Another partner the Met has been working closely with is the National Pawnbrokers Association. They have stepped up their efforts to assist police in stamping out the sale of stolen gold by launching the Safe Seller Scheme. This requires retailers to scan all gold and jewellery items offered to them for traceable liquids that may have been applied and obtain details from the potential sellers to be able to share with police if they suspect they may be stolen.
It is this type of partnership working that is making it more difficult for thieves to dispose of gold and in turn make it less desirable.
H&T, the largest pawnbroker in the country, have agreed to change their processes to support the Safe Seller Scheme. Following feedback from the community about the lack of bank safety deposit boxes, they launched a new service providing secure storage facilities for families to keep their gold and jewellery safe, which is available nationally. There are 27 stores in London.
DCI Corrigan is also working with major industry representatives and partner agencies on long-term solutions to make gold less attractive for sale. One idea includes introducing a unique mark on all gold items - similar to the individual IMEI code on each mobile phone - which would greatly benefit police in their difficult task of tracking down the owners of stolen goods.
Heena Patel, coordinator of the Family Gold Network, said: "The Family Gold Network are a group of volunteers who are trying to raise awareness of gold crime and offer advice and ideas on how to keep yourself and your belongings safe. Check our website to find information and pass on ideas to others in your community who are vulnerable and could be targeted."
For more protection tips, visit these links:
http://ow.ly/CfdFg - Met Asian gold leaflet
For more info on Family Gold Network email Heena Patel - firstname.lastname@example.org