ASIAN families have lost gold and jewellery worth £45 million that has been stolen by criminals last year, according new figures released by the country’s biggest police force.
The Metropolitan Police revealed the extent of Asian gold theft in London last week, as it warned Asian families to guard against gangs of thieves targeting gold jewellery during Diwali celebrations - the festival of light that falls on Wednesday (11).
Over the past year around £45 million worth of gold and jewellery was stolen from Asian families in London. In a first, Met officers dealing with gold-related crimes were asked to“flag” it on crime records in order for them to better assess the scale and nature of the problem.
Heena Patel, coordinator of the Family Gold Network, which raises awareness regarding gold theft and how to better secure heirlooms and possessions, said the real figure could higher than £45m because many Asians did not reveal the true extent of their loss.
“Many of the elder generation of Asian won’t like to disclose how much they have,” she told Eastern Eye.
“The figure is on the based on the fact that they are reporting the crime. Some people don’t want to tell you how much they have in their home. A lot of the time they’re not upfront aboutwhat has exactly gone missing. The number may even be double of that.
“It is because either they know it is not insured and realise the chances of it coming back are slim.”
An Asian family in Surrey had than £40,000 of jewellery stolen in September 2014.
The family, who do not wish to be named, lost wedding and inherited jewellery in the burglary believe they were targeted by professional thieves.
The devestated wife said : “They got in our house during the day time, breaking the front lock.
“For that to happen, they must have been watching us to know we were not at home.
“That day my husband went out with his car, so they must have been sure the house was empty.
“We believed we lived in one of the safest streets around.”
She added: “They had to have been professionals, as they left no fingerprints and they didn’t touch anything apart from all of my wedding and inherited jewellery.”
Patel founded the group after her friend, Detective Chief Inspector Jane Corrigan, the Met lead for Operation Nugget, who is spearheading a police operation to talk the problem of gold crime, approached her for advice.
“She wanted some advice about the tradition of Asians buying gold. Our little group stemmed from that.
“We just want to spread some good advice. We want to give advice to people who aren’t perhaps as internet savy or for whom English isn’t a first language, giving them tips and hints on security.”
According to the police, organised criminal networks are increasingly getting involved in lucrative “family gold theft” which disproportionately affects Asian families across various hotspots across the capital.
The festival period tends to see a spike in this type of crime largely due to more gold and jewellery being worn as the local community travel across London to different venues - whether temples or other people’s homes.
Patel believes Asians are being targeted more because criminals know they buy gold which has a higher level of purity.
“We are accustomed to buying 22 and 24 carrot gold as tradition, so we have higher purity in terms of value.
“Also we’re so traditional and wear it, showing it in our homes which means we put ourselves in a group where we can be easily targeted. Our homes from the outside, they have pictures of Gods or certain symbols. They are easily detectable from other homes.”
Operation Nugget includes raising awareness of the marking of gold and jewellery, working with partners to offer secure storage facilities to store precious items and building community contacts via the Family Gold Network.
DCI Jane Corrigan said: “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 jewellery are not just valuable possessions; they are also of great sentimental worth, and if stolen, would have a huge impact on owners.
“Our proactive measures to tackle these crimes has seen reductions in offences, however there is more to be done.
“As part of this work, we urge Londoners to take action to safeguard their gold and jewellery by following our simple crime prevention advice.”
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