Published: 00:01, 25 April 2014
Questions are being asked over the safety implications of Kent's street light switch-off scheme after a series of break-ins.
Several cars and a garage were targeted on the same night on the Little Burton estate in Kennington, Ashford.
At least one thief made off with wallets, electrical gadgets, designer sunglasses and a mountain bike, although some items were later recovered.
But police officers told residents a suspect they chased got away as their efforts to search the area were hampered by the lack of street lights.
Kelsey Lapthorn, 42, and her husband Barry live on the estate and were among residents alerted to the crimes by the area's Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) team.
Mrs Lapthorn said: "There are places that were safe where you just can't go now after the lights are off.
"If you know Little Burton, there are a lot of cul-de-sacs and little lanes, and near where these break-ins happened is a footpath which is covered by trees. It's pitch black up there and people just don't feel safe.
"I've lived in the area for 12 years and although we've only had the NHW for a few years, I've never heard of this many break-ins in one night.
"It seems like a big coincidence that it's happened after the lights were switched off.
"I'm getting security lights fitted this Friday and I know a number of my neighbours are thinking about doing the same."
The comments about the police hunt for the suspect were made in a statement released to residents by Kent Police's unnamed NHW liaison officer for the east division.
It said: "Several cars were broken into on the Little Burton estate in the early hours of Saturday, April 12. Officers attended Alec Pemble Close and items were recovered and a figure chased.
"A police dog tracked a track into James Allchin Gardens where an item was recovered.
"Due to the light switch-off it was almost impossible for officers to search the area effectively and no one was detained. It appeared he was on foot."
KCC took the decision to switch off street lights in some areas between midnight and 5.30am as part of its Safe and Sensible Street Lighting scheme.
But KCC was quick to assure residents members had consulted with police over the move.
Police have said it is too soon to tell what the overall effect on crime prevention and detection has been.
A force spokesman said: "Kent Police was involved in the consultation process and has provided detailed feedback to KCC.
"It is too early in the scheme to give any accurate indication as to whether the reduction on lighting levels has impacted on crime.
"We monitor crime levels closely and continue to liaise with KCC on a regular basis so that any observations or concerns can be raised.
"Kent Police is continuing its investigation into the break-ins that took place in the early hours of April 12 and is looking at forensic evidence opportunities."
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