Police in Coventry have been checking local residents’ front doors and entering unlocked properties as part of a campaign to raise awareness of opportunist thefts.
A police force in the Midlands has come under fire for entering unlocked homes as part of a campaign to warn residents of the risk of burglary.
Officers have even posted pictures of themselves inside properties on Twitter along with #stoleninseconds.
Coventry police has over recent weeks been attempting to raise locals’ awareness of the risks of leaving front doors unlocked and windows open – even when they are still at home.
This has involved officers out on patrol checking whether doors are locked or not.
But a number of Twitter users have criticised the fact that officers have in some cases entered homes without the owners’ permission – or indeed any legal authority.
To make matters worse, the police have tweeted pictures of themselves inside unlocked properties.
Against the law?
On Twitter user responded: “I’m not sure where you stand legally entering a private home without a warrant. Unlocked doors don’t give permission.”
Another said: “Isn’t walking into somebody’s house without a warrant trespassing?”
According to the charity Citizens Advice, “Police can only enter premises without a warrant if a serious or dangerous incident has taken place.”
But in defence of their tactics, the Coventry City Police account @Covcitypolice tweeted:
Officers also pointed out that many of the residents they had spoken to had been grateful for their intervention and security advice.
However, the force subsequently tweeted:
Not all reaction to the campaign was negative, with many social media users and Coventry residents recognising the potential value of the police’s approach.
One Twitter user said: “Anyone complaining the police were in their house without a warrant are quite frankly stupid. You'd rather be robbed? Idiots.”
Low detection rates
Another supporter tweeted: “Would you rather have a police officer enter your home without a warrant or a burglar without you knowing?!”
The strategy employed in by Coventry police is perhaps more understandable in light of new figures which show that almost 90% of burglaries remain unsolved.
Analysis just published by Churchill Home Insurance has found that forces in England and Wales cracked just 12.2% of burglary cases in the year to March 2014.
However, Churchill found large regional variations in detection rates.
In Wiltshire, just 8.3 burglary crimes in every 100 were solved in the period in question.
In Sussex and Surrey, the rate was barely higher at 8.5 and 8.8 per 100 respectively.
At the other end of the scale, police in Dyfed-Powys solved almost 30% of burglaries in 2013-14.
Perhaps as a result of local police’s crime-solving abilities, Dyfed-Powys also had the lowest incidence of burglaries, at 2.5 for every 1,000 people.
Humberside and West Yorkshire recorded the highest burglary rates – both at 10.8 per 1,000 people – over the period.
Martin Scott, head of Churchill Home Insurance, said: “It’s important that householders are aware of the potential threats to their home, which vary significantly depending on where you live.
“There also appears to be quite a contrast between the highest and lowest authorities in terms of police officer cover, with some areas having more than double the number of full-time officers per head of the population than others.”
Scott added: “While there are clearly big differences between burglary rates by area, the precautions householders should take remain the same.”
According to Churchill, these include:
Installing security measures such as security lights and burglar alarms.
Ensuring packaging for expensive items is not left on view, for example next to bins.
Using timers to set lights to come on if no one is at home at night.
Maintaining good relations with neighbours, who can keep watch over your home when you are away.