London: Scotland Yard on Wednesday warned the Indian community in London to stand guard against a possible spike in gold thefts during the festive period of Diwali.
The Metropolitan Police said gold and jewelery worth more than 50 million pounds was stolen from communities across London in the 2016-2017 financial year.
It warned Londoners to guard against gangs of thieves targeting gold and jewelery particularly during the Diwali celebrations starting Thursday.
"The festival period tends to see a spike in this type of crime largely due to more gold and jewelery being worn as communities travel across London to different venues whether temples or to other people's homes," the Met Police said.
According to the latest figures, last year there were 3,463 offenses where gold or jewelery was stolen from Asian families across London, which is 306 cases fewer than the previous year.
This is a direct result of Operation Nugget, launched by the Met to tackle gold thieves through a series of different initiatives, police said.
The Met says its intelligence continues to show organized criminal networks are increasingly involved in "lucrative family gold theft", which affects many communities, including those from the Asian, Jewish and Maltese communities across various locations in the British capital.
Thieves use a range of burglary tactics and are known to rip up floorboards, remove bath panels and safes in their hunt for gold stored at homes, which is then sold through second- hand outlets.
"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. These pieces of gold and jewelery are not just valuable possessions, they are also of great sentimental worth, and if stolen, would have a huge impact on owners," said detective superintendent Jane Corrigan, the Met's lead for Operation Nugget.
"Our proactive measures to tackle these crimes has seen reductions in offenses, however there is more to be done. As part of this work, we urge Londoners to take action to safeguard their gold and jewelery by following our simple crime prevention advice," she added.
Her team has issued some basic guidance on measures people can take to prevent against becoming a victim of gold theft, including taking a photograph of their valuables to help officers prove who the jewels belong to if a burglar is stopped and installing CCTV cameras and burglar alarms.
It also asks people to avoid keeping jewelery in bedrooms and bathrooms as those are often the first place a burglar will look and covering up any jewels being worn while traveling in public.
The Met Police is calling on families to start marking of gold and jewelery using traceable liquid and building community contacts via the Family Gold Network.
The force also released a case study on Malkait Lidder, an Indian-origin victim of such a theft, whose house was robbed of gold and silver last month.
"We were devastated to see how violently the internal door had been broken down. Then, when I went upstairs and saw that everything had been turned upside down I was shocked. We felt that our privacy had been invaded as they had gone through all our cupboards and clothes and shoes," Lidder recalls.
In the course of the burglary on September 8, gold jewelery valued at around 30,000 pounds was stolen, along with 2,000 pounds cash and 2,000 pounds worth of silver cutlery.
Scotland Yard has now released a picture of the stolen items and is appealing for information.