When I went to leave my house in Altrincham for my 7am shift at MediaCity, everything seemed normal. Until I opened my front door and saw this.
No great catastrophe, but one of our flagstones was pulled up and broken, and the gate left open. I’d read about thefts of entire driveways of York stone flags, so knew that someone had tried to steal ours and been disturbed or though better or if.
As I was getting into my car I had a quick look at my neighbour’s to the right, and they also had one stone pulled up, gate left open.
But what I missed was the front of my neighbour to the left. It looked like this.
Previously it had looked almost exactly like this.
Thirteen of their flagstones had been pulled up around 2.30am in the morning. My neigbour was disturbed, looked out and saw three people in hoodies drive off in a white van parked right outside our houses.
This type of theft is not unknown in the North West and particularly Yorkshire. The York stone flags can sell for £100 per square metre, according to this piece in the Daily Mail. Altrincham neighbourhood policing team say it’s been a couple of years since one has occurred in the area and call it ‘rare’ here, but not unknown in the past.
Will the thieves come back for the ones they didn’t take, in my front garden and my other neighbour’s? Once you’ve become a crime victim your chances of being a repeat victim increases, the policewoman I spoke to over the phone told me.
So this is the advice, both from the police and from Twitter. Get an alarm (we have an old one we never use and turns out it’s broken). and get a camera. Don’t bother with the cheap ones the policewoman told me. If police can’t identify people in the night vision CCTV, the images are useless.
The police also recommended window sensor alarms. Burglars are using garden ornaments to smash windows to gain entry. As ever Twitter knows this too.
If you’ve had flagstones stolen it doesn’t follow that the thieves will return to burgle your house. Most likely they are targeting just flagstones. They’ll have seen them in advance and returned; it’s not a chance thing. The thefts mostly happen overnight.
Last year policing minister Mike Penning called for stiffer penalties for stone theft, which had increased after a government crackdown on scrap metal theft.
It was reaching “epidemic levels” in parts of Britain and should be treated as “serious organised crime” Mr Penning said. You can read The Telegraph’s full article on the rise of stone theft and measures to tackle it here.