BURGLARS have netted jewellery worth thousands of pounds in four raids on homes over a four-hour period.
The thefts have again raised the issue of policing in the Staffordshire Moorlands, with community leaders calling for more officers to be drafted in.
Police, who believe the burglaries on Monday, August 4, were linked, responded by saying such incidents were rare and that extra efforts were being made to keep residents safe.
Three of the properties affected were in Heaton, near Rushton Spencer, and one at Waterhouses.
It is believed the thieves were searching for high quality jewellery as only the more valuable pieces were taken – with lesser value items being discarded.
The value of the items stolen has not yet been revealed, but is believed to be thousands of pounds.
The window of a detached property in Heaton was forced open and a search was made of all the rooms. The thieves examined jewellery, but none was taken.
In another incident damage was caused to a secluded property near Heaton when the raiders forced patio doors open and made a thorough search.
In a third incident casement windows were forced open to a bungalow in the same area.
The thieves stole a quantity of jewellery.
In a fourth incident, at a property in Waterfall Lane, Waterhouses, was broken into.
Thieves gained access via a rear UPVC door.
Again a quantity of jewellery was taken along with £600 in cash. The thieves made a thorough search of the property.
Inspector Ian Hancock, commander of the Staffordshire Moorlands Local Policing Team, said: "We had four burglaries reported between 1.30pm and 5.30pm on Monday August 4. Three of them were at Heaton and one in Waterhouses. These were quite unusual and we don't normally get anything like the numbers that were reported to us."
"Clearly we treat this type of incident very seriously and a number of actions have been put in place to increase officer visibility and awareness, particularly in our more rural locations.
"Although very distressing and traumatic for the injured parties this type of incident, and particularly the numbers reported on this occasion, is quite rare in the Staffordshire Moorlands area."
Police have now issued a description of the two smartly dressed men believed to be responsible.
One is described as white male in his early 20s with short dark hair, around 5ft 8in, of average build and wearing a light shirt and dark trousers.
The second was described as white male in his mid 30s, 5ft 10in with white/silver hair.
A vehicle described as either a Vauxhall Vectra or Insignia type, dark blue or dark grey and on a 58-plate was seen in the area. One witness also described a dark VW Passat.
The issue of the burglaries was raised at a meeting of Waterhouses Parish Council.
Councillor Andrew Carr said: "We are not satisfied with the police cover. The number of officers and the large areas concerned do not add up for officers to cover the area 24/7." Chairman Eddie Simpson said: "We have raised the issue of the low number of police officers in the area many times. Patrols seem to have disappeared. People have raised concerns with us after several farms were broken into.
PC Dave Stubbs, who was present at the meeting, said an extra PCSO had been brought in.
He added: "We do have an issue as people are coming in from outside of the area. The Moorlands is a safe place to live and people are very trusting.
"I have requested that extra attention is paid to the Waterhouses area."
Inspector Hancock added: "There are no plans at this time to increase officer numbers on the Staffordshire Moorlands area.
"However, it is important to add that incidents of reported burglary are down when compared to last year and the Staffordshire Moorlands is one of the safest places to live in the county regarding this type of offence.
"My officers will continue their efforts to maintain that and keep people safe and reassured."
Anyone with information can call Staffordshire Police on their 101 number. Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.