FAMILIES are being urged to lock up their doors and secure their homes as part of a crackdown on burglaries in Castle Point.

Statistics released by the Castle Point Safety Partnership show between April 1 2012 and March 25 2013 there were 335 reported burglaries, up from 328.5 last year.

Now officers from the Castle Point neighbourhood police team are warning residents to be more vigilant against thieves, offering helpful tips and advice on how to keep their properties and their belongings safe.

Sergeant Mark McQuade said of the 358 burglaries between August 2011 and July 2012, the majority could have been avoided by home owners taking simple steps to improve security and make it look like their home is occupied while they are out or on holiday.

Sergeant McQuade said: “Crime is happening daily in the borough and people need to know that there are horrible people out there watching and waiting to pounce.

“Residents should have a strategy in place every time they leave their homes to make sure they are secure. You are six times more likely to be burgled if you do not have window or door locks and you would be surprised the amount of people who go out and leave their doors open.

“I would rather have officers in cars patrolling the area night and day than attending homes which have been the victim of burglary if we can prevent it.”

This comes after Benfleet residents were warned on Tuesday about thieves targeting homes on the mainland following three attempted break-ins and two burglaries in the space of 24 hours.

The team held a special presentation at a Canvey Town Council meeting on Monday.

Residents were also warned of the dangers of distraction burglaries whereby crafty crooks distract home owners at their front door, while their co-conspirators sneak in unlocked back doors and raid their home.

John Pharro, of Orrmo Road, Canvey, who used to work in insurance, said: “Having worked in insurance, when I walk up and down the road it is easy to tell which homes are vacant. Normally I am really meticulous about shutting doors and windows but it is easy for people forget.

“The most shocking thing I found was about distraction burglaries. I would never think to lock my back door before going to see who is at the front door. That was totally new to me and a lot of people at that meeting I think so it was good to have that information from the police.”

Despite the rise in burglaries, statistics show overall crime in the borough is down 13 per cent, from 3,699 incidents to 3,218.

Chris Wood, District Inspector for Castle Point, said: “Crime is down in the borough which is always good news, and I think members of the public should take credit for that because clearly they are taking greater care. But we can always do more.”