HOUSE burglaries have soared in the run up to Christmas, with 46 break-ins so far this month.

It is expected crooks are targeting homes across Southend to stock up on their presents for the festive season.

The figures for November are higher than last year, when just 40 were reported by this point of the month.

It appears to be a worrying trend as the Echo reported how break-ins suddenly surged in December last year.

Mel Scarlett, 33, of Park Street, Westcliff, was one of the victims targeted.

She said: “Nearly a year later my children are still scared to go upstairs at night on their own so now we’ve got to move. We are actually looking at other properties.

“ It’s that time of year again so I’m worried now that I’m going to be burgled again. It’s sick - why don’t they just go out and get a job like the rest of us?

“The problem is they don’t get sentenced properly, they get let off with community service or a slap on the wrist.”

Mrs Scarlett ‘s business Scarlett Fireplaces, in London Road, Westcliff, was also ransacked for £10,000 of tools just two weeks beforehand.

Insp Brad Dickel, of Leigh police, urged people to be extra careful as the nights draw in.

He said: “Now more than ever with the evenings drawing in and Christmas presents being purchased, I would urge everyone to consider leaving lamps on or fitting fairly inexpensive timers if returning home late from work or consider asking a friend or neighbour to ensue curtains are pulled if going on holiday.

“ Allowing neighbours use of driveways to park cars in the owner’s absence has proven another means of avoiding being targeted.”

He said covert patrols had been stepped up significantly and they were being assisted by other departments within the police.

If you spot any suspicious behaviour call 101 or 999 in an emergency.