A suspected gang of professional burglars were arrested during dawn raids today linked to more than 160 break-ins across Merseyside and two neighbouring counties.

Detectives have been probing a massive network of incidents which have happened over the last 12 months in the county.

The gang's activities also extended to Cheshire and Lancashire.

It involved the organised crime group targeting, mainly, car keys to steal vehicles.

The mob allegedly behind the burglaries are from Liverpool and Lancashire, and this morning, eight people were detained by police.

The men, and one woman, arrested are a 37-year-old man from Blackburn, an 18-year-old man from Dovecot, a 19-year-old man from Knotty Ash, a 34-year-old man from Knotty Ash, a 28-year-old man from Aigburth, a 35-year-old woman from Blackburn, a 50-year-old woman from Stoneycroft and a 19-year-old woman from Stockbridge Village.

Police raid in Dovecot

Nine warrants were carried out in Merseyside and Lancashire.

All eight people have been taken to police stations across Merseyside this morning.

In many cases, cars were stolen and the burglaries took place predominately during the night, but also in daylight hours.

Sometimes, homeowners and their families, including young children, were confronted inside their properties.

Detectives said the criminality involved a significant level of sophistication and planning.

It is understood police are confident they have taken the alleged ringleaders off the streets as part of this probe.

Police raid in Dovecot

Merseyside Police say it is one of the biggest burglary operations ever carried out in the northwest in recent history.

The value of property stolen is believed to run into many hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In some cases, cars and other items have been returned to their owners, but some property remains outstanding.

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Homes from every demographic were targeted by the group, not just wealthy affluent homes.

Detective Inspector Steve Ball, leading this investigation, said: “This morning’s activity is a large step forward in this long-running and complex investigation, and those arrested will now be questioned.

"We’d like to thank our neighbouring forces Lancashire and Cheshire for their continued assistance, as we continue to investigate across the region.

"The suspected scale of offences and victim affected means that this could be one of the most significant burglary operations ever carried out in the north west region.

“Today is also a good opportunity to highlight what measures we can all take to further secure our properties against would-be burglars, especially as the shorter days draw in.

"People’s homes are left in darkness for longer, giving criminals more opportunity to break in.

"Taking advice given by the police can help make life as difficult as possible for them and decreases the chances of your home being targeted.

"Improving security features like locks and alarms, and making sure your house always looks occupied can make a big difference.

"Often people are either forgetting to both push the handle up as well as turn the key, or they are leaving it unlocked while round at a neighbour’s or elsewhere in the house.

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"Opportunists can try dozens of handles in a street and it won’t be long before they find one that opens.

"It is very important that people are extra-vigilant this time of year and ensure that they take home security seriously.

"Many burglaries can be prevented by taking very simple measures such as ensuring all windows and doors are locked, even when at home.”

Detective Inspector Ball continued: “We regularly act on information from those communities affected by burglary across Merseyside and alongside other forces, so come forward if you know anything about suspected burglary and the sale of stolen goods where you are.

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"We’ll act on all information provided.

"Due to the focused activity of Operation Castle and the impact of Covid, burglary offences have decreased across Merseyside this year, and we’ll continue to work proactively with communities and our partners to keep this progress going.

“Burglars have been sentenced to a total of more than 300 years in prison since we began the operation in 2019, and the impact on victims and the wider community has been really encouraging. We have an absolute commitment to all burglary victims to keep putting offenders before the courts.”

Anyone with information on burglary is asked to contact the dedicated email address on [email protected]

You can also pass information to the social media desk @MerPolCC, call 101 or you can call or the independent charity @CrimestoppersUK anonymously, on 0800 555 111.