POLICE are launching a campaign urging homeowners to protect their property from thieves this winter.

Durham Constabulary’s Winter Nights initiative hopes to stop a rise in burglaries due to the dark nights.

The onset of dark nights can lead to a rise in burglaries, as a house which is in darkness can look empty to an opportunistic criminal.

As part of the campaign, people are being urged to take simple steps to secure their homes to help prevent themselves from becoming a victim of crime.

Chief Inspector Caroline Davies, from Durham Constabulary, said: “All too often people are making their homes attractive to burglars and thieves by leaving them unlocked or in darkness during the winter months.

“However, a few simple steps are all it takes to reduce this risk and protect yourself from becoming a victim of crime.”

The campaign is making sure residents lock all their windows and doors even if they are home and is encouraging people to leave a light on or use timer switches, so lights come on when it gets dark.

As part of the campaign, people are also being reminded to always lock their vehicles when leaving them unattended, and remove all valuables from sight.

Ch Insp Davies added: “Vehicles left unattended with valuables left on display or unlocked are a magnet for criminals, who will often try a number of car door handles until they find one that has been left open.

“It only takes a few seconds to make sure you’ve locked the door, but it could mean the difference between having your car stolen or having it there when you return.

“In the run up to the festive season when traditionally people are doing more shopping, they should also remove items from their vehicles before leaving them unattended, or lock them out of sight in the boot.”

The other safety tips in the campaign include, shutting curtains during the day, using a house alarm, contacting your local neighbourhood police team if you see anything suspicious in your area and leaving your valuables out of sight.

During the campaign, PCSOs will be patrolling key hotspot areas which have seen an increase in burglaries, thefts from vehicles and antisocial behaviour.

The force ran a similar campaign last year offering safety advice and guidance, delivered in a series of messages on social media.

To report any suspicious activity in your area, contact Durham Constabulary on 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Durham Police Winter Nights Advice:

• Before leaving your home make sure you have locked both your front and back doors and your windows. Almost a third of properties are burgled due to an insecure door or window.

• Consider leaving a light on before you go out when it is dark. It is a fact that properties left in darkness are more likely to be targeted by burglars.

• Close your curtains when heading out for the night.

• If you have a house alarm – please use it!

• Ensure car headlights are in working order, and avoid dazzling other drivers.

• Pedestrians - be safe and be seen – wear something bright when out and about after dark. When the weather gets colder...

• Drivers - make sure your vehicle is secure when clearing windscreens of snow or ice.

• Snowballing is fun - but it could turn into anti-social behaviour or even a criminal offence if snowballs are aimed at cars or passers-by.