Four houses were burgled in Winchelsea last week and an attempt made on a fifth. All the properties were in Mill Road and around the corner in School Hill. In addition, a Land Rover belonging to one of the houses was stolen when the keys were found by the burglars. It is not known when the burglaries occurred, as the four houses that were successfully burgled were second homes and their occupants have been away. It is thought that the burglars mistook the fifth house as a second home.
The four burglaries make 2015 a bad year for crime in Winchelsea, bringing the annual tally of break-ins to five. They have also come as a bit of a shock to residents, as apart from one burglary in 2014, there had been none in the citadel area since 2006.
The fact that the latest burglaries targeted second homes suggests that these houses were reconnoitred in advance by the burglars. Neighbours say this would have been easy, despite an active Neighbourhood Watch, because building work in one of the roads has meant lots of strangers and unknown vehicles in the area.
According to Winchelsea Neighbourhood Watch, including the latest spate but excluding thefts from garages and sheds, there have been 17 burglaries in Winchelsea citadel over the last 12 years, of which, eight were of second homes (47%). The proportion of second homes in the village is currently 22%, so these properties are more than twice as likely to be burgled as permanent homes.
Winchelsea Neighbourhood Watch is advising all residents to be vigilant and suggesting that second home-owners ask neighbours to periodically check their properties while they are away. It is recommending that all house-holders install timers on lights inside their houses, consider burglar alarms, check that the locks on doors and windows are robust, and make sure any gates to the rear of their properties are locked. However, attention has been drawn to doubts about the efficacy of external security lights, particularly permanent lights, and the need to reduce light pollution.