KEYS should be kept out of reach of doorways to stop thieves hooking them through the letterbox and stealing cars, police have warned.

Officers believe thieves managed to steal a green Ford Focus from a driveway in Laindon by using a metal pole with a hook on the end to lift the car keys from the hallway.

The car, with a EF09 KUX registration plate, went missing overnight on Friday.

It is not believed the thieves actually went inside the home, in Markhams Chase, as there were no signs of doors or windows being forced open.

Nothing else was out of place inside the home, except the missing keys which had been left in sight of the doorway.

Police are continuing to receive numerous reports of burglaries in Basildon, Billericay and Wickford, where thieves have snatched handbags containing keys in a bid to steal cars from the driveway.

Officers are now asking residents to keep car keys in a more secure location, keep handbags out of sight and install motion sensor lights in ground floor rooms.

A black Ford Kuga, on a EJ14 EXM registration plate, and a grey BMW M Sport, on a L10 GBC registration plate, were stolen from Pauline Gardens, Billericay, overnight on Saturday, May 7.

Between 11pm on Thursday, May 5, and 7am on Friday, May 6, burglars broke into a house in Oakhurst Drive, Wickford.

They stole a handbag, containing a purse, bank cards, cash and car keys, before driving off with a Ford Galaxy from the driveway.

PC Marek Jaworksi, from Basildon Police, said: “In all the burglaries we are seeing where cars have been stolen, the keys have been too easy to find by the burglars.

“We would advise to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to steal the car. Keep the keys in a different place and it would be a good idea to install motion-sensored lights to scare off burglars.

"Certainly don't keep keys anywhere near the doorway where they can be fished out easily by thieves using a took through the letterbox.”

None of the cars have been recovered.

Anyone with information can call Essex Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.