A warning has been issued to Asian families in London to be vigilant over the safety of their valuables during their festive period of Diwali. The holiday falls on Wednesday (11 November) and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all over the world. During this time, Indian families are likely to bring out their finest jewellery to celebrate during the religious holiday.
The warning comes as recent figures suggest that gold and jewellery worth £45 million was stolen from Asian families in London over the last year. The Metropolitan Police have warned Asian families to guard against thieves who could be targeting gold jewellery during the Diwali celebrations. Asian families are likely to wear their finest possessions as they visit friends and family or attend celebrations at local temples.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: "Combined with the annual rise in burglary and robbery at this time of year and, as the nights draw in, this makes Asian communities particularly vulnerable to thieves keen to cash in on the buoyant market for gold being sold through second-hand outlets."
Police noted that organised criminal networks were becoming increasingly involved in the theft of gold from families, which had begun to "disproportionately affect Asian families" in London. The Met released a series of precautions that people can take to protect themselves from falling victim to these networks, including installing burglar alarms and CCTV cameras, leaving valuables in a safe that is secured to a wall or to the floor, and being discreet when wearing anything expensive to avoid attracting attention.
The police have also advised families to take photographic evidence of their gold and jewellery, which will allow them to prove ownership of the items and help with insurance should they fall victim to a theft. They also recommended using traceable liquid in order to make it easier for the police to track down the stolen goods and have them returned to the owners.
"Gold will continue to be highly desired by criminals, due to the speed and anonymity with which it can be exchanged for large sums of cash," said Jane Corrigan of the Metropolitan Police. "These pieces of gold and jewellery are not just valuable possessions; they are also of great sentimental worth, and if stolen, would have a huge impact on owners."
The police have stepped up efforts to prevent gold thieves ahead of Diwali through Operation Nugget, which aims to lower the number of crimes and bring more thieves to justice. In the first phase of the Operation, Met officers were asked to flag gold-related crimes for the first time, allowing police to better track and assess the scale of the problem.