Startling CCTV footage has emerged of thieves using specialist tools to break into a family home, as reports emerge of a wave of car crime sweeping South Ribble.
A spate of car thefts have been reported in recent weeks, which have occurred after homes were broken into for keys while owners slept.
One of the victims claims he was told by an officer that up to 18 crimes of this nature had occurred within days in the area, and although Lancashire Police have declined to give specific details or numbers, officers from South Ribble’s policing team have warned on social media of a spate of burglaries in the Leyland area involving the theft of vehicles.
The cars known by the Post to have been targeted are all high-value or high-performance.
In the CCTV, from a house in the Bamber Bridge area just before 3am on Tuesday, January 29, two men are seen trying locks and looking at cars on the drive - including a high-performance Golf R. They later managed to use a telescopic fishing rod with a magnet on the end to hook a set of house keys and break in.
The men were in the house for around 20 seconds before the house alarm sounded, and they made off without car keys, but with a handbag containing £180.
The owner, James Bird, said: “We were woken up by the alarm going off at 2.50am, but it turns out from looking at CCTV that they’d been at the house for 40 minutes.
“They’ve tried the back door, then come round the front, and eventually they’ve got the keys and got in the house.”
Mr Bird said he kept the keys downstairs in case of emergency in the night, and that they were hidden from sight.
When fleeing the alarm, the thieves locked the front door, in order to prevent his family getting out.
He added: “They had this fishing rod device, chisels, a screwdriver. You’d think that we would’ve heard all this going on, but we didn’t, nothing at all.”
He added: “The CCTV shows them looking at the cars and wiping snow off them, so it’s clear they wanted car keys. I feel that we’ve been watched and targeted.
“Me and my wife Amber have three kids and they’ve asked a lot of questions. When things have calmed down and you analyse what’s happened, you realise what could have happened. If they’d have wanted to, they could have come upstairs and threatened us for the car keys."
When Mr Bird put details of the crime on social media, he said he was contacted by six other people in the local area, who had also been targeted.
One man, who lives a mile and a half away from Mr Bird in Hoghton, had his £50,000 Audi S5 stolen in the early hours of Monday, January 28. The thief or thieves gained entry to his house by snapping the lock on his patio door.
The keys to the car and a purse containing a £3,000 engagement ring were taken.
The man said: “My wife is traumatised. Not only have they stolen the car, we feel violated that they have been in our house while we and our children slept.
“My wife now can’t sleep at night and she’s talking about moving.”
The man said he gave chase to the thieves when he was woken by sounds and the headlights shining at 3am, but couldn’t reach the car in time.
He said police told him 18 similar car thefts had occurred in the area in the past week, and that although an ANPR search was taking place for his vehicle, no results had been returned.
He said: “It’s frustrating because I know that whoever’s done it will have swapped the plates and that’s why nothing is flagging up.” A police spokesman said: “These crimes can have a devastating impact on their victims and leave them extremely vulnerable. We want to help deter and detect this criminal activity and bring these offenders to justice.
“We are committed to cracking down on criminals who make the lives of people a misery and we will continue to use all the powers available to us to target these criminals, prevent offences and bring those responsible to justice.”
Police are asking the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity by calling Police on 101, or to Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.