Burglars beware - Winchester police are out to get you, even if other forces have given up.

Graham Callard, crime desk manager and assessment officer for central Hants, said: "I can only speak for my division, but we take domestic burglaries very seriously: every one is investigated.

"It is a force objective to cut the number and we have been quite successful over the years."

Mr Callard, a retired detective constable, said "distraction burglaries", where older people fall victim to bogus callers, were "particularly despicable".

"They cause a great deal of upset and distress because the victim comes face to face with the burglar."

He said bogus caller crimes were always investigated, despite there being very few convictions.

"The witnesses are elderly, their recollections poor and they don't want to go to court. It is very difficult to investigate and get a conviction.

"But the best thing is prevention and getting the message across to the elderly that they need to lock doors and check people's credentials."

His comments came after a charity waded into the controversy over whether burglars should be jailed.

A spokesman for Help the Aged said the organisation was "stunned and angry" over admissions that many burglaries were not investigated if there was no chance of a conviction

He said: "Thousands of crimes in this category are incidents of bogus callers, in which the victims are usually older or other vulnerable people.

"Allowing such despicable attacks to pass by unpunished is unacceptable by any standard."

Help The Aged commissioned a survey last year which estimated the real number of bogus caller incidents in the UK at 300,000 per year - three times official estimates.

The charity wants the Government to make bogus caller crime a separate offence, rather than being lumped under burglaries.