29 burglaries in 10 days as masked gang steps up Black Country raids
Police are hunting for a masked burglary gang after elderly people were targeted 29 times in 10 days.
Elderly people have been targeted 29 times in 10 days by a gang of callous burglars in the Black Country.
The culprits have either used brute force or posed as police officers and utility workers to gain entry to victims' homes before fleeing with cash and jewellery.
Stopping the gang has now become "the highest policing priority in the Black Country," according to West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent Sally Bourner.
Six incidents were reported on Wednesday night alone, with video from one of the homes targeted providing the first footage of the gang in action.
WATCH: Warning as CCTV shows masked gang
In the video, shot from a doorbell camera in Coseley, four masked men can be seen approaching the house before fleeing when they realise they're being filmed.
The other raids included one where four masked men stole jewellery after attacking a 75-year-old woman in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, and the burglary of an 87-year-old woman's home in Walsall where cash and jewellery was taken.
Both times the gang forced their way in but in separate raids in Smethwick and Tipton they left empty handed after being foiled by the homeowners.
The group behind the raids are believed to be around five strong but the only description offered by police is that the suspects are white.
It is not known whether they are local to the area, with officers so far unable to provide details of their accents.
Increase in the last week
Ch Supt Bourner said the force now has a dedicated team investigating the burglaries and warned pensioners to stay alert and not to answer the door to unsolicited callers.
She said: "In just over a week we’ve seen an increase in the number of burglary offences targeting elderly people across our communities. The first happened on October 4.
"Since October 10 we’ve seen a significant increase in offending, a total of 29 burglary offences at various locations across all four Black Country boroughs.
"These offences have occurred at a range of times primarily in the afternoon, the peak time is between 6pm and 9pm with a small number taking place in the early hours.
"The people who are victims are older people aged 70 to late 80s.
"Any crime is awful but crimes targeting older people are absolutely despicable and it is beyond belief to think that any human being could commit a crime against older people.
"I wouldn't say this is unprecedented but it is awful, horrendous."
Five homes were targeted last Saturday, with one deaf 89-year-old man threatened with a brick and an elderly female victim rushed to hospital after a suspected heart attack.
An 89-year-old woman in Dudley was also targeted that day, while an 84-year-old man in Bilston had an unknown substance sprayed in his face after his door was kicked open.
Ch Supt Bourner said detectives could not be certain that it is the same group responsible for all of the raids but that the similarity of the crimes suggests that is the case.
"Descriptions are difficult to capture because what we are seeing is the offenders are tending to cover their faces with scarves," she added.
What are police doing to stop the gang?
"We have a dedicated team of investigators who are working tirelessly to identify and bring these offenders to justice," Ch Supt Bourner said.
"We are prioritising this across the Black Country.
"We have heightened patrols with colleagues from force response ready to mobilise at speed when we have an incident we believe linked reported.
"This is our highest policing priority in the Black Country at this present time.
"We are raising awareness with our partners in health and social care and charity sectors and many people who work closely with elderly people day in day out."
What can you do to stop the gang?
Ch Supt Bourner appealed to residents to look after elderly members of the community and told pensioners to not open the door unless they have arranged a visit.
She said: "While these offences are in the Black Country, I would ask people more broadly across the wider West Midlands and borders to be extra vigilant and alert. By raising awareness we can prevent further offences.
"We will carry on doing everything we can to bring offenders to justice.
"Some simple things people can do to try and prevent this is to be extra vigilant and check on elderly family members, friends and neighbours.
"Check that they’re ok and help us spread the word that if somebody knocks on your door saying they’re a police officer don’t open the door. You should expect them to visit. And contact us.
"If they say they’re from another agency don’t open the door you should have arranged for them to come and see you.
"We are doing everything we can to bring the people who are responsible for these horrific set of offences to justice."
Anyone with information can contact police by calling 101, or by using live chat on the force website. If you believe a crime is being or is about to be committed call police on 999.