POLICE are warning homeowners to lock up their sheds after a spate in break-ins over the past few weeks.
Cleveland Police has recorded 20 shed burglaries in Hartlepool from March 18 to April 14.
During the same period last year there were just nine break-ins to out-buildings.
As a result of the hike in the criminal activity, officers are urging homeowners or tenants with sheds and outhouses, to ensure that they are properly secured to protect the property inside.
Police say the criminals are attracted to goods such as lawn mowers, bikes, garden furniture and tools, as they can be sold on for cash.
People should invest in padlocks, and alarms in a bid to ward off the thieves.
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said: “In recent weeks a number of shed burglaries have been reported throughout the force area.
“Often, items such as pressure washers, power tools, garden furniture, golf clubs and bicycles are left in sheds and these items are prime targets for thieves.
“Fitting a good quality padlock, reinforcing hinges with bolts and fitting a shed alarm can be enough of a deterrent to prevent thieves.”
She added: “In addition fitting security screws or coach bolts to hinges and simply securing the contents of your shed with a length of chain and padlock. All of these will assist as a deterrent.
As the summer approaches and you spend more time in your gardens, please identify areas where you can improve the safety of your home.”