A JEDBURGH area councillor has called on the police to give the public more warnings about crime after he and his wife returned home early on Monday night and disturbed a gang of thieves in the act of ransacking their property.
Jim Brown, an SNP councillor and one of three elected representatives for the Jedburgh & District ward on Scottish Borders Council, and his wife, Jennifer, had popped into the town to pick up their young grandson.
It was when they returned home at around 7pm they spotted a car without its headlights on slowly rolling out of the driveway to their house.
“We noticed a light grey/silver hatchback creeping out of our driveway with its lights off and it was being driven by a white male in his mid-20s wearing a grey hoodie. He turned his face away as we passed, but we have a reasonable description of him and he was obviously the getaway driver and lookout,” Mr Brown told TheSouthern this week.
“As we approached our cottage we could see that all the lights were on inside. Fearing the worst, we entered the house to find the back door kicked in and complete chaos, with cupboards, drawers, wardrobes and even the bath panel all ripped open.
“We heard a car slowing down on the road near the rear of our house and believe it was the getaway driver picking up his accomplices – it then accelerated up through the gears and away.
“Several items of jewellery and a substantial amount of cash were missing, but we obviously must have disturbed the intruders in the middle of the raid. Next morning we followed two sets of footprints in the frosted grass in the field behind our house. The thieves had dropped some of their haul as they clambered over two wire fences before being picked up by the getaway car.”
Mr Brown says the incident has left his wife quite traumatised.
“My wife felt really terrible this week, worrying that someone must’ve been watching our house – watching us. We feel our lives have been invaded,” he told us.
The Browns alerted the police on Monday night and three car-loads of officers attended the scene.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of forensics specialists and when Mr Brown spoke to TheSouthern yesterday morning, he and his wife were waiting for insurance representatives to assess the damage and value of the missing items.
But Mr Brown says if police had made it more publicly known that there had been a recent spate of house-breakings across the Borders, he would have been even more vigilant than normal.
“Our house was locked up before we went out. But we weren’t aware any of this had been going on in isolated areas like ours, otherwise we’d have been even more cautious,” he said, when told by TheSouthern of a number of house-breakings and “slip-in” thefts in the Hawick and Kelso areas in recent months.
“I’ve now told everyone in the valley to be on the alert. It might not be a great reflection on the police, but they should be making the public more aware when things like this are going on.”
Mr Brown says he doubts whether this was an opportunistic slip-in type theft of the sort which police said this week had been taking place elsewhere in the region.
He warned: “There was three people involved in this break-in. That seems like a professional team to me. Let’s hope the culprits are caught soon, but in the meantime please advise your readers not to leave premises unattended if at all possible.”
However, Lothian and Borders Police’s PC Steven Irvine, says the force is continually issuing warnings about the need for householders, including those in rural areas, to ensure their properties are securely protected.
“Over the past three or four months there have been a number of break-ins to houses in the Hawick and Kelso areas. They now seem to have moved on to the Jedburgh area,” he told us yesterday. “We are reminding people to lock doors and windows before retiring to bed, during the day if they are out – or even if they are inside their homes – because 90 per cent of these thefts have been ‘slip-ins’ where access to the property has been gained through an insecure door or window.”
Several people have been charged with various offences in connection with some of these incidents and enquiries are on-going into the others.
PC Irvine warned people to remain vigilant. He said: “Borders people are still very trusting and a number still choose to leave their doors open all the time. But they have to break that habit.
“Even if people are just nipping into their gardens, they should ensure their doors and windows are locked and put any valuables and money out of sight.”