Home burglaries on Hong Kong’s richest up more than 70 per cent

High-end households suffer but city’s overall crime rate at lowest level since 1978, with average last year of 825 cases per 100,000 people

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 7:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 9:24am

High-end household burglaries involving losses of more than HK$500,000 at a time surged over 70 per cent last year, although the overall crime rate fell to its lowest level since 1978, Hong Kong’s police chief revealed on Tuesday.

Police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung also announced that two suspects from a gang involved in a high-profile break-in and kidnapping in Clear Water Bay in December had been arrested by mainland authorities in Guizhou province.

Unveiling the city’s crime statistics, Lo said a total of 60,646 crimes were reported last year – an 8.7 per cent drop from the previous year. The rate has been declining for 10 consecutive years.

The crime numbers translate to an average of 825 cases per 100,000 people in Hong Kong.

While home break-ins in 2016 dropped 5.9 per cent to 2,428 cases – a record low since 1969 – high-end burglaries totalling more than HK$500,000 in losses per case climbed from 31 to 54.

“Some mainlanders particularly targeted luxurious residences in Hong Kong,” Lo said.

“I do not suspect the work of any syndicate behind this, and it was more likely that the criminals entered the city illegally or with two-way permits.

“They returned to the mainland after successful break-ins, and may have brought more accomplices on their next run.”

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Lo did not specify which part of the mainland the burglars tended to come from. Houses in New Territories North and on Hong Kong Island were popular targets.

“Half of the cases involved instances where owners were away on long holidays, leaving doors or windows unlocked or having insufficient security facilities,” he said. “The force will strengthen patrols and intelligence exchange with [mainland] counterparts.”

More than two-thirds of the burglary cases involved residential premises, with losses totalling HK$168 million, a jump of more than 50 per cent.

Police solved less than a fifth of all burglaries, or 454 cases, last year, leading to the arrests of 456 people. About 70 per cent of them were local, while mainlanders accounted for about 10 per cent.

In mid-December, the force launched a manhunt after three men from Guizhoubroke into a couple’s house through a toilet window at the upscale Bella Vista estate on Silver Terrace Road.

Officers arrested one suspect and rescued the kidnap victims – veteran architect Ma Kim-see, co-founder and manager of MLA Architects, and his wife, both 67.

“We received a notice from our mainland counterparts informing us that the two other suspects have been arrested. We will work closely with them to follow up on the case,” Lo said.

The pair, ages 25 and 26, were arrested in Guizhou by the provincial public security department. Some stolen items were recovered, a Hong Kong police spokesman said.

Overall, the rate of crimes solved climbed 2.5 per cent to 47.3 per cent in 2016, with more than 33,242 people arrested. Among them, 21 were police officers.

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Murder cases recorded the biggest jump, climbing 27.3 per cent to 28 cases.

Lo said most of the cases involved financial or love problems and disputes with neighbours.

The number of robbery cases jumped 16.6 per cent to 260, while crimes related to blackmail dropped 27.2 per cent to 994 cases, and serious drug offences fell 9.5 per cent to 1,792 cases.

The Post reported earlier that the force would create more than 900 officer posts after a surge in public order events.

Lo said counter-terrorism was a major focus area as the problem had deteriorated in Europe in recent years. He added that Hong Kong police should be prepared for the threat, even though there was no intelligence suggesting the city was a target.

Additional reporting by Danny Mok