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16 August 2011, 06:00
Three teenage burglars who went on a month-long night time burglary spree in Hemel Hempstead have been locked up.
31 homes in Bennetts End were raided, mostly when the occupants were inside, after one of the youths worked out how to open UPVC doors that had not been double locked.
One one occasion a woman in her 70s who was asleep on the ground floor of her home woke to find three young men in her room, St Albans crown court was told.
Laptops, mobile phones, other electrical items and jewellery were taken to a total value of Â£9,000 between 14 February and 20 March this year.
The 13 year old, who is now 14, a 16 year old and a 17 year - none of whom can be named for legal reasons - all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle. They all had previous convictions.
Prosecutor Margaret Mascherenas said they were arrested on the night of March 18 to 19. A bracelet stolen from a break in was found on the 17 year old and two mobile phones had been discarded nearby.
The prosecutor said: "Bennetts End is not an affluent area. It is mostly a council house estate and there is a significant elderly population. All the burglaries were overnight. In most of the cases the homes were occupied."
She said the 16 year old had learned to prise open UPVC that had not been double locked by using a screwdriver. In all there were 24 successful break ins and 7 attempts.
For the 16 year old, Jessica Sobey said his father had left the family home and he had started offending. She said he knew the effect the burglaries would have had on the victims and had asked him how he would feel if his mother was burgled when she was at home at night.
Ms Sobey said the teenager had been under the influence of older members of the community.
Maria Karaiskos, for the 17 year old, said he had no proper education, no bond with his parents, no roof over his head and no employment. She described him as "very immature and incapable of making informed decisions saying he had been "faced with peer pressure."
John Traversi, for the 14 year old, said reports on the boy showed a lack of structure in his life.
Judge Martin Griffith told them: "Each of you needs direction in your lives. These offences are so serious only custodial sentences can be passed."
The 16 and 17 year olds received 24 months detention and training. The 14 year old received 18 months detention and training.