Adverts promising cash for gold could be fuelling a 25 per cent increase in thefts of the precious metal across the West Midlands, writes Nick McCarthy.
Police say the increase in gold thefts could be linked to the arrival of postal services promising cash for unwanted gold.
The postal services have sprung up to take advantage of the current record-breaking price of gold.
They have already hit the headlines for allegedly ripping off unsuspecting consumers with low prices for the weight of gold sent in.
But police are concerned that checks are not made on who owns the gold in the first place.
And officers have urged jewellery wearers themselves to avoid flashing their jewellery in a bid to combat an increase in street thefts.
Businesses in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter have also been hit by a series of robberies, with a slight rise in the number of delivery and security vehicles being targeted in the last 12 months.
On a street level, thieves are ambushing some victims from behind to rip valuable chains off their necks.
The main hotspots are in Birmingham, in Handsworth, Ladywood and Sparkbrook, where officers have been called to help a high proportion of Asian victims.
In many cases the jewellery also has strong sentimental value, and has been passed down through generations of the same family.
Sgt Andy Gregory, of West Midlands Police’s Crime Reduction Team, said: “The rising value of gold has made it an extremely viable commodity. Because it is worn with pride by many people in our communities and because we have a thriving jewellery retail area, we have seen a rise in the number of incidents.”
But he added: “A lot of the advice we are giving out to people and businesses is common sense and involves not flaunting necklaces and bangles and improving home security.”
Police are already investigated a spate of burglaries in the Sutton Coldfield area.
In one incident around £40,000 of Asian jewellery was stolen.
West Midlands Police Crime Prevention Design Adviser (CPDA) Nigel Charlesworth said: “It is a sad fact that many burglaries, even ones where high value items have been stolen, still occur at homes that do not have even basic security in place.
“Residents should ensure they have appropriate door and window locks on all ground floor and other easily accessible windows.
“Other common sense measures such as ensuring valuables are not left out on show can also greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of burglary. Households with particularly large amounts of high value items should use bank safe deposit boxes.
“Burglaries that have been difficult, requiring some determination and skill on the part of the offender, are unusual.”
High visibility police patrols also have been stepped up around the Jewellery Quarter where officers are liaising closely with shops that are expecting deliveries.
Other schemes are also being investigated by the Safer Birmingham Partnership to regulate the sale of gold to shops.Between January and September last year, officers across West Midlands investigated 201 offences. That figure has risen to 247 so far this year. Police are now planning a number of tactics and high profile initiatives to ensure they cut the gold thieves off at source.