BURGLARS are taking advantage of the heatwave by stealing cars using keys left near open windows by the owners.

Fifteen vehicles worth tens of thousands of pounds have been stolen from outside homes in the Bitterne area of Southampton since the end of May.

Similar crimes have occurred elsewhere in the city – and police believe several of the thefts have been carried out by the same people.

Other cars have been stolen by burglars armed with fishing rods or other implements that enable them to reach through a letterbox.

Victims of the practice known as “fishing” include Carrie Malone, 39, of Manor Farm Road, Bitterne Park, whose home was targeted on June 18.

The burglars stole a van full of tools and a car – both of which have since been recovered.

Fellow victims include Luke and Penny Bennett, of Panwell Road, Bitterne, who were targeted twice on the same night.

Mrs Bennett, 40, said: “I woke up at 1.20am and went downstairs to use the toilet. I noticed the back door was open and that someone had taken my handbag, which

contained my car keys and £150 in cash.

“My Fiesta had also been stolen.”

Police say a van and a wallet were stolen from an address in Balaclava Road, Harefield, on the night of June 16-17. Another theft took place in the early hours of June 21 when two vehicles – an Audi A4 and a Smart Forfour were taken from outside a house in Upper Weston Lane.

Southampton East neighbourhood Inspector Sharman Wicks said: “We know it’s really warm weather but it’s important to consider whether you’re leaving your home vulnerable to burglary.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Hampshire police, quoting crime reference number 44180226604.