TERRIFIED neighbours are "living in fear" following a spate of break-ins across Earley.

Residents have been targeted around the clock by callous thieves, who are believed to spy on their victims in their homes before pouncing when the properties are left empty.

Houses in Allonby Close, Paddick Drive, Colmworth Close, Bradmore Way, Fordham Way and Sutcliffe Avenue have all been hit since September. A further ten burglaries were reported to police last month, including five in Wokingham Road in the space of just nine days.

Earley Town Council leader, Cllr Tahir Maher said: "My friend has �50,000 worth of gold stolen from his house and his insurance had run out, so he lost everything.

"Another lady I know withdrew all of her cash in case something went wrong with the banks, and she lost it all. A lot of anger has now built up in the community. People are living in fear, they are so worried they are not even going out."

Chief Inspector Christian Bunt, said burglary was the police's "top priority" and officers were doing all they could to catch the culprits.

He added: "To combat this unusual crime pattern, we have been carrying out high visibility patrols and targeted operations in the affected areas, which have resulted in the arrest of three people.

"In addition to this, officers have been speaking to local residents, offering them crime prevention advice, and I have personally spoken to some concerned members of our community."

Chief Inspector Bunt reassured people at the Pakistan Community Centre on Tuesday [6] by confirming that jewellery thefts since the summer were much lower than originally thought.

Another public meeting run by police was due to take place last night (Wednesday) [7] at The Oakwood Centre in Woodley and a former Earley Town councillor has set up a community watch group to help protect the area.