Havering’s interim police chief pledges to drive down burglary

Havering’s interim police chief has promised to use the skills he’s honed during his time on the murder squad to help catch the burglars blighting the borough.

Christmas saw a predictable spike in the number of homes targeted by thieves looking to make a quick buck stealing festive gifts intended for others.

However, with an average of 30-40 break-ins a week and up just over two per cent since last year, burglary is a top priority for the police all-year round.

“I’ve been a victim of burglary, so I take it personally,” said Det Supt Tony Bennett, 47, who has temporarily taken the reigns following the retirement of Borough Commander Mick Smith.

“When there’s been a burglary, I don’t see it as another stat; I think it could be my mum, friend, or my children affected. I detest burglars.”

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The borough’s resolution rate - 13 per cent - is good, says Mr Bennett, but he is determined to push it higher.

Detection is difficult, there are around 300,000 homes clustered across one of the biggest boroughs in London, and resources - like many of the quieter outer districts - are limited and unlikely to be bolstered any time soon.

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Prevention is key. The police advise “locking and lifting” uPVC doors, front and back; locking windows; securing garden shed tools to prevent thieves using them as jemmies; keeping door and car keys hidden from view in the home; using timers to light the house when out; and installing alarms where at all possible.

Mr Bennett, a married dad-of-three, joined the police as a cadet when he was just 17 and became a fully-fledged Pc a year-and-a-half later, cutting his teeth in Limehouse, east London.

Since then he has worked his way up through the ranks, becoming a murder squad detective in 2002.

For the past two years Mr Bennett has been in charge of what he calls “offender management” in the borough, deciding what methods are best employed to catch the bad guys.

Some of his tactics have been lassoed from the homicide unit.

“We will try to circulate images on police indices within 24-48 hours and then into the community soon after that,” he explained.

“My experience in dealing with homicide is speed is the key. Arresting them early gives us the best opportunity to get supporting evidence. And it sends out the message to the victim, and the wider community, that we are managing risks and harm.”

Burglars, typically aged between 15 and 45, are both local and itinerant and hoping to capitalise on what is considered a relatively affluent borough.

One thief caught had flown into the capital from abroad in the morning before travelling to Havering and carrying out a burglary in the afternoon.

Domestic violence (Havering is in the top five in London for detection); robbery, of which Havering has relatively low numbers; and continuing to tackle town centre problems, are among the other priorities for Mr Bennett.

He said: “I still get a kick out of coming to work despite the tactical challenges. I am a bloke who started as a Pc and has worked through the ranks to a detective. I have an awful lot of experience and I love using it.”

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