South Yorkshire Police investigating 63 cases of dog thefts after alarming rise in "acquisitive crime"
Dogs and vans have become the most coveted items for thieves to steal during lockdown
South Yorkshire Police has seen an increase in serious "acquisitive crime" where criminals steal for material gain.
Lockdown has prompted a demand for puppies, which can sell for thousands of pounds, and officers have begun 63 investigations into dog theft since July 2020.
There has also been a rise in vehicle thefts, particularly of transit vans. Police say because shops are closed and more people are staying at home, thieves have looked at different ways to make cash.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber told a Police and Crime Commissioner meeting: "We have seen a significant increase in dog thefts. We still have a relatively small number of offences but these are commodities which have significantly grown in value over lockdown.
"Ultimately much of acquisitive crime is fueled by addiction, people are after commodities they can sell.
"It's very difficult to break into houses now with most people working from home so we have also seen an increase in vehicle theft.
"The price of second hand vans has risen over lockdown just because of the demand for them with some of the delivery companies. It doesn't surprise me that we're seeing this increase in theft."
Temporary Chief Supt Stephen Chapman said thieves did not just target pedigree dogs, crossbreeds were also at risk.
Recently, three pups were stolen at gunpoint in Burngreave, four were stolen from a flat in Richmond and a woman was dragged from her car by a man trying to steal her dog at Crystal Peaks.
He told the meeting: "It is an emotive subject. The key message is if you hear and see suspicious activity, you need to report it.
"We want to hear about it, there are offenders we haven't yet identified and it will be taken seriously. There was a recent case in Sheffield which detectives were involved in, that's how seriously we take it."
Police have issued advice about keeping dogs safe here