Police have issued warnings ahead of Navratri and Diwali celebrations


by LAUREN CODLING

ASIAN families have been warned to take extra precautions during the festive season of Navratri and Diwali as the risk of their valuables being targeted by burglars increases, the Metropolitan Police cautioned last week.

Last year there were more than 1,800 burglaries recorded which involved Asian victims, the police said. Around 6,360 items of jewellery were stolen, valued at nearly £9 million.

A 24-year-old man was jailed for ten-and-a-half years last week after he threatened an Asian family in an aggravated burglary.

Shane Cosgrove and another male suspect broke into a house in Bromley, southeast London, with the intent to steal gold.

Overall, around £100,000 worth of property was reported stolen including jewellery, electronics, shoes and a handbag.

CRIME: Shane Cosgrove broke into a house in southeast London with the intent to steal gold from an Asian family

The family, including a 52-year-old woman, were said to be “terrified” by the ordeal.

PC Anish Sharma, 28, has been working in the Met Police for five years. He works in Southall, a predominately Asian area in west London.

He told Eastern Eye that Asian families are more at risk, as burglars and thieves are aware that over Diwali cash and gold gifts are more likely to be found in houses.

By having religious symbols on their front doors, a lot of people “advertise” they are Asian, Sharma explained, thus making their house an easy target.

“It is about getting that message out to the community,” he said. “As much as people are proud of [being Asian], it does make you a target.”

PC Jyoti Malhi, 41, works for the violent crime taskforce in the Met Police. Describing one of the most harrowing cases she has dealt with, Malhi recollected an incident where a 77-year-old Asian man was burgled for his valuables.

“You could see the emotion and the impact it had on him,” she told Eastern Eye. “As well as the value of the jewellery, it is more about the sentimental side of things, including items which had been given to him by his father who has now passed away.”

The man suffered “horrific” injuries, including a fractured eye socket, skull, jaw line and a fractured hip. “He was black and blue from bruising,” Malhi recalled.

After, a long investigation, a year and a half after the incident, four people were later convicted and imprisoned.

“I still remember it clearly as it is one of my first times crying in the job,” Malhi said.

In the aftermath of a burglary, victims can suffer from trauma, including PTSD,
paranoia, depression and anxiety.

COMMUNITY VALUE: Anish Sharma, Jyoti Malhi and Ronnie Ashta are leading the fight against jewellery theft

If a crime does happens in your own home, Malhi explained, it can be damaging to your confidence levels as your home is your sanctuary.

“It can have a huge psychological effect,” she said. “The impact on the mental state can vary, but it does happen.”

PC Ronnie Ashta, 33, told Eastern Eye as the clocks go backwards and the nights become
darker at an earlier time, the risk of being burgled increases.

Advice given to families includes taking photographs of valuables and considering installing CCTV cameras and burglar alarms.

Individuals should consider keeping jewellery safe with the National Pawnbrokers Association and if valuables are worn out in public, they should be covered up.

“The advice we give is be extra vigilant,” Ashta said.

Currently, the police are attempting to make the community aware by publishing crime prevention advice and organising leaflet drops.

If a burglary occurs in a certain neighbourhood, officers knock on nearby houses to make people aware.

“It’s called ‘cocooning’,” Ashta explained. “It means we can give them advice and let them know what’s happened.”

“It isn’t nice we have to give this kind of advice”, he added, “but unfortunately it has to be done”.

“It could happen to anyone,” Ashta said. “It is trying to get that understanding out there that it may not have happened to you, but it could.”

To find out more on how to protect yourself and your property, visit www.met.police.uk/crime-prevention