POLICE are on a drive to clamp down on vehicle crime after more than 1,000 incidents were reported in the Bolton North area last year.

The figure is a 36 per cent increase on the previous year and includes cars being stolen and items taken from cars — thefts from vehicles accounted for about 70 per cent of the crimes reported.

Hotspot areas include Heaton, Bromley Cross and Egerton.

Det Insp Charlotte Cadden, from Bolton Integrated North Neighbourhood Policing Team (INPT), said: “In an ideal crime-free world, residents would be able to leave expensive items on show in their cars and be confident that they would still be there on their return.

"Unfortunately, there is a cohort of prolific offenders in Bolton, who regularly roam the streets, trying one car door after another, to find a car that is unlocked.

"They are successful on most occasions and then go on to steal valuable things — which often have sentimental value.

“We are not going to ask residents to lock their vehicles as this seems unachievable. We are just asking car owners not to leave any property in their cars. We cannot reduce this type of crime and its impact without residents' help.”

The Bolton News shadowed police as they raised awareness about the spate of vehicle crimes in Egerton. About half of the car doors tried were found to be unlocked.

Some vehicles were even left unlocked deliberately by their owners.

David Spencer, aged 69, of Brierholme Avenue, Egerton, said: “Not locking vehicles is sloppiness and people need to tidy up. It is an open invitation to criminals. If you have a casual approach to life leaving doors unlocked you become easy prey.”

A CCTV camera owned by Lisa Pollitt, aged 35, of Conisber Close, Egerton, caught a criminal rummaging through her neighbour’s two unlocked cars in the early hours of June 19.

He was on the driveway for seven minutes and on the estate for 27 minutes without anybody realising. He stole change in euros and work clothes.

Mrs Pollitt, a mother-of-two, said: “I got the CCTV camera after someone was burgled on the estate.

"We don’t want to make it easier for criminals by leaving doors unlocked. People need to double check their doors to get rid of these criminals in the area.

“It is quite scary to think that there was somebody wandering around doing that while people were sleeping.”

PC John Moorhouse from Bolton North INPT, said: “It seems to be the case that people are travelling to different areas of Bolton to steal from vehicles.

"We don’t want to give them an easy opportunity.”

Vehicle-related crime has reduced over the past three weeks since officers focused on Heaton by working nights to catch prolific criminals.

Det Insp Cadden said: “Convicted offenders are either given very short prison sentences or community orders.

"We work intensively with these offenders when they are out in the community on bail or on licence, as they form part of a group of offenders involved in acquisitive crime.

“These offenders generally steal to fund a drug dependency. It is a cycle of criminality that only ends when offenders go into treatment or receive a lengthier sentence and can be rehabilitated in prison.”

She said hotspots are patrolled, people are stopped and searched and are prosecuted.

Officers also regularly visit the most prolific criminals and try to get them engaged in drug treatment, secure housing and help them to get a job. Second hand shops are also visited to look for stolen items.

People are encouraged to register their property on immobilise.com. Registered items can be returned if found by police.