Police admit they have taken a big hit after more than 20 burglaries in less than a month.

Between February 6 and March 2 there were at least 24 break-ins in the Braintree and Witham area, including the surrounding villages of Great Notley, Silver End, Shalford, Hatfield Peveral, High Garrett, Feering, Bardfield Saling and Coggeshall.

Among the items commonly stolen have been jewellery, cash, laptops and other electronics.

Sgt Martin Richards said: “It’s not just in this area but across north Essex at the moment. Unfortunately, you do go through these cycles.

“I wonder whether somebody somewhere has been released from prison and we have yet to find that person.”

He urged homeowners to ensure their houses are secure and to report any suspicious activity to police.