POLICE have begun harassing suspected thieves in their homes in an attempt to combat a spike in burglaries.

The district’s new chief inspector Ed Wells, 30, has just completed his first six months in the job.

While overall crime levels have fallen three per cent on his watch, there were 111 burglaries in the district in August 2012, compared to 85 in the same month last year.

"It's been one of the challenges,” he said.

“If you are a criminal, this area is quite rich pickings. We want to scupper them.”

Epping Forest and Brentwood is one of four districts targeted by Operation Nemesis, an Essex Police initiative set up in August to crack down on people linked to burgaries in the county’s most plagued areas.

“We are targeting our offenders by literally harassing them at their houses on a daily basis until we lock them up for something,” he added.

Chief Insp Wells urged people to keep windows and doors locked, but said that burglary is not the only priority for his officers.

“My two issues have been rises of theft of and theft from cars," he added.

"In one car park in Epping we found 50 cars in one day that were either unlocked, or had cash on display, or windows open or sat navs on display.

"I suppose one of the nice things about areas like this is that people don't have a particular fear of crime, which is good.

"But it means some people don't take many measures to ensure they don't become victims."

Chief Inspector Wells took up his post at a challenging time for the force, as Essex Police attempt to save £42 million by 2015.

Cuts started to bite in the district last year, as the front desks of Waltham Abbey and Ongar police station closed and opening hours at Loughton and Epping stations were slashed.

“Lots of people, I understand this, like the idea that the police station is open, but actually very few people utilise that.

“If a front office is closed, it doesn’t mean the police station is closed.”

The father-of-three has also faced some less than usual challenges during his first six months.

He said: “One of the stranger incidents was just after they had the reports of the lion in Clacton - literally the next morning.

"We had multiple calls about a kangaroo in a road near Brentwood. We turned up and found a wallaby trying to get into a van."

He said officers had returned the escapee to his home at Colchester Zoo.

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