Group of burglars behind 200 break-ins including two at Southwater

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A group of burglars are now believed to be responsible for more than 200 break-ins across the south east, including two at Southwater and dozens across the rest of West Sussex.

It is thought that one group of up to a dozen burglars are involved in 59 offences in Sussex, 24 in Surrey, 113 in Kent and nine in London since September.

The two burglaries in Southwater were in Blakes Farm Road on December 5.

The make-up of the group may change depending on who is available.

Last week - between Monday 8 December and Sunday 14 December - there were 18 burglaries committed in Sussex that are being linked to the group along with four in Surrey and 22 in Kent.

On each occasion the offenders have driven to their victims’ homes in a silver or dark car, usually an Audi or BMW, before breaking in at the back of the properties and stealing cash, jewellery and electrical items.

A reward worth up to £10,500 has been put up for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of any of those involved in the burglaries.

Sussex Police launched Operation Magpie to tackle burglary across the county.

The thieves are believed to be using cars fitted with numberplates that have been cloned from another unrelated car of the same type and colour. Officers would like to speak to anyone who sees people changing numberplates or who finds any abandoned plates.

Detectives are also urging residents to help them catch those involved by dialling 999 immediately if they see people acting suspiciously near their homes - in particular if they notice potential offenders with silver Audis or BMS.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Clay of Surrey Police, who is leading the investigation, said: “There are detectives from across the south east working to catch those involved but we need the public’s help.

“The key to identifying the people responsible may come from residents living near one of the victims. They may have seen the thieves escaping in their silver car or could have seen people acting suspiciously over the weekend.

“I would also urge people to continue to be vigilant in their areas and to tell us if they see anyone who is acting unusually near their homes. If something sticks out as suspicious to you, please tell us so we can investigate - it could be the break that we need to catch those involved.”

Sussex Police, Kent Police and Surrey Police have each contributed £2,500 to a reward to help catch the offenders - a total of £7,500 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those involved.

Independent from the police, the charity Crimestoppers is offering its own reward of up to £3,000 for information that is passed anonymously through the organisation’s 0800 555111 number that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for these crimes.

If information passed to the charity should lead to an arrest and conviction, both rewards will be considered.

Anyone with information should contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 quoting Operation Smart, email 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or call 101.

If you have any information about burglaries or shops selling stolen goods, call 101 or email 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk. For crime prevention advice visit www.sussex.police.uk.

If you see or hear a burglary taking place call 999 immediately.

Residents are also being encouraged to register their items on the world’s largest property database so that if they are stolen, they can be reunited with the owners - and so the offenders can be prosecuted.

You can register your property in just a few minutes by visiting www.immobilise.com. To watch a video about Immobilise and how it works, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XZ66WEER_c.