POLICE are warning householders to take extra security precautions after a number of break-ins.

Officers in Harrogate are becoming increasingly concerned about a number of incidents in which thieves have broken into homes to search for car keys to steal residents' cars.

The crimes are usually committed late at night, or when the houses are unoccupied, but in recent weeks thieves have entered houses at about 6pm while people were at home.

On at least one occasion, the burglars have been armed with a baseball bat.

Detective Inspector Kevin Ross, of Harrogate CID, said: "We don't want to frighten people, but this is a worrying development.

"I would ask that everyone makes sure that they lock and secure their doors, even if they are at home.

"I know people will feel strange about locking themselves in their own house, but that simple precaution may stop you becoming a victim of crime.

"Security lights that activate when someone enters the door are another deterrent.

"Always remember that your car keys are as important to a thief as the car itself - please keep your keys safe."

The most recent incident happened at 6.45pm on Friday when three men entered a house in Harrogate town centre.

They were disturbed by the female occupier, but she was unable to prevent them from stealing her black Volkswagen Golf.

The men were aged between 17 and 20 and were dressed in dark clothing and hooded tops.

Anyone with information is asked to call Harrogate CID on 0845-6060247.