CRIME-fighting Laycock residents have been urged to halt their night-time patrols in the village.

Police and politicians have warned householders of the potential dangers they face as groups go in search of burglars and stone thieves.

They have called on residents – who are taking action in response to a spate of thefts in recent weeks – to leave foot patrols to the professionals.

Villagers, who have declined to go on record about their actions, have been operating patrols in shifts from 2am.

In the past two months, up to a dozen homes have fallen victim to thieves, who strike after midnight at weekends.

Keighley town councillor John Kirby said criminals had stolen highly valuable Yorkshire Stone paving slabs and expensive top-stones from walls, as well as breaking into sheds and greenhouses.

But he was among those to strike a note of caution about the patrols amid fears participants could be putting themselves in danger of attack.

Coun Kirby said: “Residents were doing patrols at two in the morning. I requested them not to do it.”

Ward district councillor, Adrian Farley, added: “It’s good the community is being proactive, but what response will they get if they encounter someone? They could get attacked.”

Police inspector Diane Collins this week revealed Keighley Neighbourhood Policing Team has increased patrols in and around Laycock in response to residents’ concerns.

She added: “We would ask that this sort patrolling is left to police officers.

“Laycock is a very safe place to live, and crime rates are low and are continuing to fall.

“Patrols have been increased in the area, and since August 11, there have not been any similar crimes reported to police.”

Villagers have, however, received praise for an informal Neighbourhood Watch scheme, which involves residents phoning each other the moment they see suspicious behaviour outside their homes.

Police and councillors were this week working with residents to set up a formal group and discuss other potential solutions to the recent spate of crime.

There was standing room only at a public meetings on Tuesday to hear residents’ concerns and pass on crime prevention advice. SmartWater – liquid containing a unique code that can be applied to people’s property – could also be deployed to help trace stolen goods.

Coun Farley said: “I fully endorse them setting up a Neighbourhood Watch, and hope they can get the plaques on lampposts to deter thieves.”

Coun Kirby described the existing Neighbourhood Watch as “fantastic”.

He added: “Residents phone each other if there’s a problem.

“One 93-year-old man heard a rumble in his garden and saw a figure. He got on the phone, and within minutes he had people round searching.”

l A 19-year-old Keighley man has been arrested in connection with a recent burglary in Laycock, and has been bailed while enquiries continue.