FLIMSY door locks costing just a few pence are allowing burglars to plunder homes in Kirklees, West Yorkshire’s police chief has warned.
In the last year 320 homes in Kirklees have been targeted by thieves forcing open the cheap euro-profile locks on uPVC doors.
Sir Norman Bettison, chief constable for West Yorkshire Police, told the Examiner homes were at risk because it took just a matter of seconds to disable the locks.
He said police had not wanted to draw attention to the issue up to now because they did not want to alert criminals to the security weakness.
But he said the practice was becoming so commonplace that the public needed to be warned.
Burglars use a simple tool to smash the europrofile design cylinder, which often controls sophisticated locking systems on double glazed doors.
Sir Norman said: “The level of burglaries is worrying and our analysis shows a significant proportion of it, about one in four of all burglaries in West Yorkshire, is because of cheap euro-profile locks, which are used extensively in uPVC doors.
“They cost constructors 37p each, so you are protecting your £100,000-plus house with a 37p lock.
“Young burglars have realised how easy it is to attack these locks.
“We haven’t talked about this because we didn’t want to give potential burglars any ideas they didn’t already have, but we have now said we need to take a strategic position because it is widely known about within the criminal fraternity.
“The general householder isn’t aware of the vulnerability of the locks.
“I’m now wanting to raise the consciousness of the general public about this as a problem.”
Burglars who target euro-profile locks are very often intent on stealing top-of-the-range cars.
Sir Norman said: “If you have an expensive car parked on your drive, people intent on stealing it know the easiest way to do it is to look through the window and, if they see the keys on display, they can easily remove the lock and go and get it.
“If there are laptops and other valuables on display, the euro-profile lock is not a deterrent.”
Burglaries have risen in Kirklees, leading to it being made a policing priority in the division.
In the last six months, there were 1,606 house burglaries in the district. That was 6.4% more than during the same period last year and more than 50% more than in the same period in 2005, when there were 1,047.
Incidents in which euro-profile locks have been forced open have contributed to the rise.
Sir Norman said: “The locks should be changed for more secure locks and social housing providers are changing them, but private householders need to be aware that the euro-profile locks are very vulnerable.”
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “It is difficult for a householder to tell what sort of lock is fitted but the general advice is that if you have an older uPVC door, it would be worthwhile getting the door checked by a reputable firm”.
According to police, nearly a quarter of burglaries in Kirklees in the last year were the result of houses being left insecure – with the door unlocked or windows open.
They advise householders to keep doors locked even when they are at home and leave lights on when they are out.