Gangs from countries including Colombia and Mexico are the reason for a dramatic increase in residential burglary in the borough of Kingston.
Residential burglary is up 25 per cent in the last year, the third highest increase in London.
Official Met Police figures show there were 779 reports of residential burglary in 2011, compared with 623 in 2010.
Police believe the reason for the rise is thieves being flown in from Central and South America.
When asked about the situation during a public question and answer session last Wednesday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe said: “We are taking this seriously. As an indicator we have already made three arrests.”
Leidy Lopez Vera, 20, and Sergio de Robley de la Vega, 21, from Colombia, and Mexican Jair Flores Cervantes, 25, were arrested in October. All pleaded guilty and were sentenced at Kingston Crown Court in January. They will be deported at the end of their sentences.
At the time of the arrests, Detective Inspector Brian Fitzpatrick conceded: “It seems as fast as we arrest them, they get replaced.”
But Hogan Howe challenged this theory, saying: “I’m not sure that we are as confident that the description in the press, the flying in and flying out (of thieves), is exactly what is happening.”
He added: “We need to work harder because they’re an effective team and they’re hurting too many people.”
The police are trying to combat the problem in a number of ways. These include ensuring more patrols are carried out in the affected boroughs, especially by plain clothes policemen, in an attempt to catch the thieves in the act.
Hogan Howe admitted: “Although there has been some success in this (method), clearly there’s more to do.”
Since they believe the goods are being sold on, the police have started looking into that end of the process.
Kingston borough is believed to have been targeted partly because of its proximity to the A3.
Responding to the rise in residential burglary, Kingston Council said: “The Royal Borough of Kingston works closely with the Metropolitan Police on any major issues of concern to residents and we are confident that as a result of the proactive policing strategy, along with the recent successes of Kingston’s experienced burglary squad, the recent increase in the number of burglaries will be effectively addressed.”