CRIMINALS are smashing their way into cars after targeted police patrols and improved motor security meant theft has become more difficult.

Dozens of residents have reported finding their car windows smashed and, on some occasions, items were also stolen.

The wave of thefts from motor vehicles has increased in the past two months with criminals initially targeting unsecure vehicles.

This has impacted the entire Southend borough with a number of areas highlighted as hotspots by the policing team.

But after increased patrols and increased vehicle security by residents, there was an initial drop in this type of crime forcing the mindless perpetrators to just smash their way into secure cars instead.

Insp Ian Hughes, of Southend police, said: “Unfortunately we have seen the method of committing offences change as a result of the work completed by the public and agencies.

“We are now seeing perpetrators moving away from targeting insecure vehicles to smashing vehicle windows to gain entry, often for no gain.

“The problem is spread throughout the borough. There are three or four defined areas which have been targeted more than others and this is where we are prioritising our work.

“It is a very challenging crime type, mainly because it is largely opportunistic perpetrators committing the offence and they do not require any equipment to do it.

“Something as simple as a small stone picked up off the floor will cause the required damage. The offences are mainly occurring overnight which reduces the opportunity for any eyewitnesses or perpetrators being disturbed whilst committing the crime.”

Insp Hughes said in order to tackle the spate, a single team is dealing with each incident so they can spot patterns and all officers have been briefed.

He added: “An analytical product has been produced which has allowed us to understand the crime series better and as a result we have a number of lines of enquiries which we are exploring.

“This is coupled with our intelligence team reviewing social media sites to identify any information or footage which we may not be aware of.

“I also completed a funding bid on Tuesday requesting additional money to provide additional officers.”