BURGLARY investigations were dropped this year in almost 80 per cent of cases, according to an investigation revealing break-in hotspots across County Durham and Darlington.

Criminals responsible for carrying out more than 1,600 of 2,107 burglaries reported in the area since January have escaped justice, according to The Northern Echo’s analysis of recent crime statistics.

Just 82 punishments were handed out following investigations by Durham Constabulary, with the majority of investigations were closed without a suspect ever being identified.

The figures reflect a national problem, with recent research finding that only around five per cent of burglaries are solved across the country.

Of the cases that were solved around County Durham, recorded crime outcomes show that 25 people were sent to prison, 14 received community sentences, two were handed suspended prison sentences and three given conditional discharges.

Five cautions were issued, 30 cases were solved with a ‘local resolution’ and one person was ordered to pay compensation.

Durham Police say when discussing the offence of burglary it is important to understand the context in relation to crime recording of such offences, and burglary now includes properties such as occupied houses and flats, garden sheds, outhouses, garages and vacant properties.

Concerns were raised after the Echo located several areas in County Durham where figures showed not a single reported burglary case had been solved.

According to the police data, Horden had the most burglaries – at least 58 - between January and June, but proportionately, residents in other places were more likely to be targeted by intruders.

Durham Police say the list identifies some streets in Horden where there are several empty houses and metal thefts, such as boilers and radiators, and are more common stolen and classed as a burglary.

However, they say it is harder to identify a standard boiler that has few distinguishing features than it is someone’s personal items that might be stolen from a family home.

Around one in every thousand residents were burgled in areas of County Durham including Blackhalls, which had the highest rate, Bowes and Middleton in Teesdale, Acre Rigg and Peterlee Central, Passfield and Shotton, Easington Colliery North and Newton Aycliffe East.

Many of the burglaries reported were said to have happened on or around shopping centres, car parks and recreational areas.

In Darlington, where around 70 per cent of 234 burglary cases this year were said to have been closed before a culprit could be found, the worst rates were on or around residential areas such as Lodge Street, Eastbourne Road, Shelley Road and Longfield Road.

The area around Eastbourne Road was one of several places across County Durham that saw outcomes for five reported burglaries recorded by the police as ‘investigation complete; suspect could not be identified’.

Twenty out of 20 burglaries reported on or around the Second, Eighth and Eleventh streets in Horden did not result in prosecution, along with eight out of eight on Tweddle Terrace in Bowburn, five in Shotton Colliery’s Victoria Street and seven close to Redwell Court in Barnard Castle.

Crime prevention advice from the police urges householders to make their properties as secure as possible to deter thieves.

Keeping doors and windows locked, hiding keys and installing outdoor lights and alarms is recommended, as is ensuring fences are kept in good repair and gates locked.

Police suggest keeping valuables stored out of sight and marking them where possible with postcodes and house numbers.