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Minister holds 'Burglary Summit'

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is holding a "burglary summit" for England and Wales amid fears more homes will be broken into because of the recession. She will meet police, insurance firms, DIY stores and charities for elderly people, as well as launching a crime prevention campaign. Home burglaries in England and Wales started to rise at the end of 2008. 

Ms Smith said while historically burglaries rose during recession, there was nothing "inevitable" about it. Figures show burglaries increased by 4% between July and September, compared with the similar period in 2007. There were 69,000 break-ins at homes in England and Wales during the three-month period - the first rise in seven years. 

"I think it's important that we act before there's a problem" - Home secretary: Jacqui Smith

Burglaries of commercial premises were also up. Ms Smith told BBC Breakfast she wanted to "get on the front foot" adding: "I think it's important that we act before there's a problem. I want to make sure that we're providing people with the best possible advice to protect their homes, that we're bringing together the partners that can help to keep burglary down."

BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said that over the last 30 years, burglary rates appeared to have peaked at times of economic hardship, like the mid-1980s and the early 1990s.

But Ms Smith told the BBC: "My argument is that has been the historic situation. I don't think there is anything inevitable about that happening this time."

The summit, which will also involve Neighbourhood Watch representatives, aims to work out ways of limiting opportunities for burglars and coincides with the launch of a crime prevention campaign. It will be backed by a special fund to help people on low incomes improve their security. And people are being alerted to a three-minute test on the Home Office website about their own home security, at the end of which they will get a score for their level of protection and advice on how to increase it. The summit comes as police are warning householders to beware of what they believe is the growing problem of "car key burglary", in which a person's car keys are stolen from their home.

Because of improved car security, many vehicles cannot now be stolen without the keys and the Association of Chief Police Officers says this kind of targeted theft now accounts for 8% of all break-ins. Last year, a leaked memo from Ms Smith to Gordon Brown warned of a likely increase in "acquisitive" crimes, including burglary, as a result of the economic downturn.

BBC News

BBC News is an operational business divisionof the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online news coverage.