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Gangs targeting wealthy Paphos homes

By Bejay Browne

 

WORRIED homeowners in a wealthy Paphos village are considering employing a private security firm as a measure against what they say is a rising spate of burglaries in the area.

On occasion, burglars are entering houses while residents are in adjacent rooms or asleep, according to residents of Kamares Village in Tala.

Kamares is a popular, luxury hillside development that enjoys sweeping views across Paphos and the coastline. Many of its residents are wealthy expats from Russia, Britain and China who moved to the area drawn by the peace and safety.

However, over the last few months they say house break-ins have become a regular occurrence.

The surnames of residents that spoke to the Sunday Mail have been withheld.

“Regrettably, this year the situation has got much worse in our area. It seems that some crimes are being committed by professional gangs that are targeting certain homes, as they are able to open safes,” said Anna, a Russian resident who is coordinating further security measures among the Russian community in Kamares. “They are even going into people’s homes when they’re there. We are pushing the police to take measures.”

In one recent case, sliding doors on the ground floor were pried open while the owners and their small daughter were asleep upstairs. In another, thieves broke in through a small bathroom window, the owner awoke and frightened the burglars away by shouting loudly. They wore balaclavas and shone a torch into his face.

In yet another case, a mother and her small daughter were in the kitchen as burglars entered the master bedroom through an open window and stole jewellery.

Police are quick to point out that reported burglary figures for the first four months of 2018 have dropped considerably compared to the same period last year.

“From January to April there were 62 burglaries whereas in 2017 there were 111,” Paphos police spokesman Nikos Tsappis told the Sunday Mail this week, stressing that these figures are for the entire Paphos district.

He said that cases where perpetrators enter occupied homes are rare and that the incidents in Kamares and Aphrodite Hills, also near Paphos, are probably down to one or two gangs which are targeting such wealthy areas.

None of this reassures Anna who is a member of a local home owner committee and has requested that the head of Paphos police attend their next residents’ meeting.

Even though most homes in Kamares are fitted with burglar alarms and roller shutters, thieves are still managing to enter homes, she said.

Residents are toying with the idea of employing a private security firm to undertake regular patrols and Anna believes that many of the 430 or so homes in the area will sign up.

“There are many Russian people that want to sign up for this already and we have other neighbours as well, mostly British and also some Chinese and other nationalities.”

She pointed out that they shouldn’t be forced to go to such lengths to protect their homes and properties.

Irina and Andrey are Russian expats in their 40s and live in Kamares with their three children.

They were burgled on April 24 whilst they had gone out for dinner. Jewellery and cash – around 30,000 euros – was taken. The cash was from their business and kept in a safe, ahead of being handed over to a company shareholder to deposit at the bank, she said

Jewellery valued at around 15,000 euros was also stolen. Most of it held precious memories and cannot be replaced. This is the second time the family has been robbed, the first was in 2013. After this they installed a home alarm system, a stronger safe deposit and took out insurance.

“The alarm was disconnected – and somehow did not send us a signal, it was thrown in the swimming pool and the thieves cut our electricity. I have a lot of questions – how was it possible? Every time we have electricity failure there is immediate signal we receive via sms text message, but not this time,” Irina said.

Irina said that safety issues are getting worse, there are not enough policemen and patrols are rarely visible. “Cyprus advertises to attract foreign investors from abroad, like us 18 years ago, and yet there are no visible efforts to protect us.”

Irina is totally fed up and is involved in organising a public flashmob, to take place near town halls sometime this month.

Tala councillor Cathi Delaney said that thieves don’t appear to be deterred by intruder alarms and there have been several incidents where, for whatever reason, the alarm has not sounded or sent out an alert.

On Friday Delaney sent out an email circular to residents to again remind them to carry out a monthly alarm check to ensure the SIM in the alarm is operating correctly, and that batteries are working.

Delany has also investigated a recent post that went viral on social media made by a resident claiming that during a home robbery in Kamares last month, the family and their dogs were knocked out by gas whilst their home was burgled.

“There isn’t any conclusive proof, however I understand that the resident is perplexed as to how the family, along with the dogs slept through the incident.”

Thieves took cash and unsuccessfully tried to steal their car.

Police said that there was no evidence to suggest a gassing incident took place. However, in her Facebook post, the resident said that when the family awoke the next morning, they all felt ‘terrible’ and were suffering with headaches and memory loss; the dogs were unwell for a few days.

Delaney said: “Be vigilant, be careful who you share information with and where but try not to worry as this is still one of the safest areas to live.”

In other areas of Paphos such as Aphrodite Hills, Ha Potami and Kouklia, the number of burglaries is also worrying local authorities and residents.

Mukhtar, Michalis Nicolaou, said that the problem is well known and he has appealed to the government to instigate more measures.

“This (burglaries) is a very serious problem in Aphrodite Hills, Ha Potami and Kouklia. I have complained to the chief of police and the minister of justice. We need more police and I have requested from the government to have police on patrol all day and night.”

He has also requested building a new, small police station to service the tourist area.

According to one homeowner at Aphrodite Hills most burglaries have taken place at properties rented to holidaymakers and between 7pm and midnight. In the last two years, he said there have been 45 burglaries.

“Property owners on Aphrodite Hills no longer feel safe and most are taking extraordinary precautions to prevent burglaries.”

In February, €366,000 in jewellery and cash was taken in one break in, and on April 10 jewellery and cash around €70,000 were stolen in another.

Tsappis said Paphos police do have an operation plan in place.

“We have made an operation plan and we are using motorcycle police as we get good results more quickly as it’s easy for them to approach anywhere.”

He said members of this team had already been increased to around 30.

“We will also increase patrols in Kamares and Aphrodite Hills for the summer months,” he said.

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