Rise in Leeds burglaries linked to city’s house-building boom

A dramatic rise in Leeds’s burglary rate in the last year is being linked by police to its growing number of building sites as levels of house-building increase in the city.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 28th December 2015, 2:22 am
A rise in the number of residential building sites is thought to be part of the reason for a rise in domestic burglaries in Leeds
A rise in the number of residential building sites is thought to be part of the reason for a rise in domestic burglaries in Leeds

There were 5,227 domestic burglaries in the region’s largest city in the year to September, a 30 per cent rise from the previous year and the biggest increase across West Yorkshire.

And a report into the county’s crime figures suggests one of the contributing factors in the rise is an increase in the number of residential building sites.

Neighbourhood police officers in Leeds say criminals have been targeting unoccupied newly-built homes to steal new boilers and other equipment they can sell on for profit.

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Mark Burns-Williamson says he has discussed the rising burglary rate with police

The city’s high burglary rate, which fell in the 12 months to September 2014, is believed to be largely down to crime taking place in areas with large student populations.

Better recording methods mean a burglary at a multi-occupancy house with six rooms would now be classed as six burglaries, rather than just one, a trend said to be having a particular impact in Leeds.

Detective Inspector Dave McDougal, of Leeds District Neighbourhood Crime Team, said: “We have seen a number of incidents where criminals have targeted unoccupied newly-built homes to steal new boilers and other equipment that can be sold on.

“We have made arrests in relation to some of these incidents and will continue to do all we can to identify those responsible for any further offences.

“We are working closely with building firms to make sure they have suitable security and crime prevention measures in place and we are conducting detailed research of the stolen goods market to identify where these items are going.

“We would urge anyone who witnesses any suspicious activity around building sites or who has information on those involved in this type of crime or the trade in stolen goods to contact us.”

The rise was revealed in a report by West Yorkshire’s police commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

He said: “I discussed the rising burglary rate in Leeds with the police who informed me that the increase in residential building sites and subsequent thefts, combined with increased scrutiny and rigour around crime recording compliance, will have both contributed to the greater increase in Leeds.”

It was reported this month that the north of England has enjoyed a 12-month house-building boom, with a 30 per cent growth in construction in the past year.

Leeds City Council announced that 66,000 new homes would be built, mostly on brownfield sites, by 2028.

According to West Yorkshire Police, the big rises in domestic burglary rates in all but one of its districts are largely due to its improved recording practices.

Its total number of crimes recorded rose this year after a shake-up prompted by a damning watchdog report into the way it deals with reported offences.

In total there were 181,003 crimes recorded in West Yorkshire in the year to September, a rise of 32.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2014. The report said there had been “genuine increases” in the number of shoplifting and theft from vehicle offences recently.

Mr Burns-Williamson’s report said: “It is important to understand that changing crime levels are not only impacted by crime data but also by reducing budgets.

“Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary initially estimated that the police should be able to maintain service delivery with cuts of up to 12 per cent, however since March 2010 the West Yorkshire Police budget has reduced by approximately 20 per cent. Unfortunately this is likely to have a negative impact in crime levels going forward.”