BURGLARS thrive on dark winter evenings, police have warned residents, as a major insurer reveals it had claims totalling £14.5m nationally last year in the same season.

Residents in Wycombe district have been urged to be vigilant and take simple measures to dissuade criminals from breaking in.

Inspector Ray Wilks told householders to be on their guard because now is the time they are most vulnerable to burglaries.

Insp. Wilks, based at Marlow Police Station, said: "The darkened evenings give burglars greater opportunities.

"At this time of year with clocks going back turn, don't leave your houses in the dark.

"We've had a lot of success this year in reducing burglaries in the Wycombe Local Police Area.

"We want to continue that so it's essential people think about their home and shed security."

In the summer months, May to August this year, there were 26 burglaries, within a one mile radius of Marlow town centre.

From November to Feburary 2011 there were 33.

Especially at Christmas, with presents lying around, homes can be targeted by thieves looking to make an easy snatch, Insp. Wilks said.

Timer lights are on of the easy but important measures residents can employ, he said.

Fitted to a lamp, radio or TV it can give the impression that someone is home.

Householders should keep valuables out of sight and ensure doors and windows are properly locked, the police also warned.

Halifax Home Insurance said claims totalled £14.5m last winter nationally and there were 9,000 burglaries in winter 2011, which cost claimants an average of £1,500.