THE bleak economy and Christmas are fuelling a new rise in house burglaries across Oxford, it emerged last night.

New police figures show a 17.3 per cent increase in burglaries in the seven months up to October 31 compared to the same period 12 months ago – with fears of a further rise continuing this month.

Research by the Economic Policy Centre found that burglaries across the UK had risen by 8.6 per cent in December, with criminologist Martin FitzGerald saying this was fuelled by people feeling the pinch because of a loss of job and benefit cuts.

In Oxford, between April 1 and October 31, there were 433 burglaries at residential properties in the city – 64 more than the same time last year.

Ds Claire Storry, of the Oxford burglary team, said that tough economic conditions coupled with the festive season are driving an increase in break-ins and warned: “Burglaries are still going up. We will be over target at about 21 per cent up on burglaries (this month).”

She added: “The economy will have undoubtedly driven some of these crimes. I think more people will be turning to crime to provide for their families to get the Christmas presents they want. We will see more burglaries when people can’t afford what they want, so they go out and steal it for Christmas.”

In a bid to stop the trade in stolen goods, detectives are carrying out checks on pawn shops and appealed to shoppers not to take a risk on cut price bargains that could be stolen.

Ds Storry added: “Think if you are being sold something in a situation that doesn’t seem quite right, then the chances are it isn’t right.

“I appreciate that times are hard, but it’s not the time for saving money by buying stolen goods.”

Despite the jump in burglaries on homes Ds Storry said: “We are charging a lot of people with burglary and remanding them in police custody and trying to convince the courts to remand them in custody.

“People need to think that it could be them. It’s not someone else’s problem, at the moment it’s everyone’s problem.

“We need to work together to stop these people ruining anyone else’s Christmas. Already we’ve had a man putting presents in a shed and having them stolen.”

Thames Valley Police Federation secretary Andy Viney put the rise down to fewer police officers at a time when an increasing number of people are out of work and tempted to turn to crime.

He said: “This is something that the Police Federation has been warning about since the announcement of the cuts.

“With any reduction in law enforcement the number of crimes is likely to rise.”

Although burglaries on homes in the city have increased, other acquisitive crimes have dropped between April 1 and October 31. There were 30 fewer business premises burglaries, 18 less robberies and 41 less shoplifting crimes reported across the city.

Ds Storry said: “Homes are easier targets. A lot of offences happen when people don’t lock their doors and then it’s just a case of burglars letting themselves in.”

And behind many of those burglaries are persistent repeat offenders.

“Offending has been pretty steady throughout the year, except when people come out of prison and commit 18 or 20 burglaries within a few weeks,” she said.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Many factors drive crime and it is not possible to draw a simplistic link to the economy.”