JUST seven prolific offenders are thought to be behind the bulk of a crime spree that has seen nearly 300 homes burgled in four months. Cambridgeshire police has said the net is closing in on the culprits who officers believe are behind an increase in burglaries in Huntingdonshire. Officers on Operation Surf, a 12-man unit set up at the end of September to tackle the rise in domestic burglaries, told The Hunts Post that between July and September there were 296 domestic burglaries an increase of nearly 20 per cent on last year (237). Already the operation has seen officers patrolling hotspot areas to disrupt the criminals and reduce the number of burglaries. And seven targets have been identified whittled down from an initial list of 32. Detective Inspector Dave Steward, who oversees Operation Surf, said: We started seeing a 40 per cent increase in dwelling burglaries across an area extending from St Neots to Wisbech at the end of July. We were getting 70 or 80 dwelling burglaries a month instead of 50 or 60. The problem is we do not want to heighten the fear of crime. We have seen an increase and there are certain reasons for it. A lot of people who have been put behind bars have come out at the same time. The price of metals, including copper and gold, has rocketed. We have been looking at intelligence to find out how many people with previous convictions for dwelling burglaries are living in the area. We came up with an initial list of 32, which we have looked at and explored. We are down to a nucleus of seven who we are targeting. Arrests have already been made for burglaries that have taken place in St Neots and St Ives. A lot of it is about working with neighbourhood teams, speaking to them and seeing how active certain individuals are, said DI Steward. Comparing where the burglaries are happening and where people are residing in regards to offenders. It is thought raids on six Alconbury properties in one night earlier this month were the work of criminals who had travelled into Huntingdonshire along the A1, but the seven offenders officers are looking at for other burglaries are all locals. DI Steward said a high number of burglaries have taken place while victims were on holiday and thieves are shunning electrical goods for jewellery. Offenders will drive into villages and if there are no cars in a driveway, they will knock on the door. If they get a reply they will make up an excuse and leave. He added: There is a lot people can do themselves to stop them being a target of crime. They could organise for a neighbour to park on their drive, or anybody they trust to house sit the property. For me, the way of preventing a lot of crime is for people to talk to each other in the community. If people are suspicious, just ring the police. Operation Surf officers are checking second-hand outlets, markets and online auction site eBay in a bid to track down stolen goods. DI Steward said: Second-hand outlets offer cash for gold and it can mean within two or three days the gold is smelt and is gone. He added: Operation Surf is long-term. It is not a flash in the pan. We will continue with it. The message is if you commit burglaries, we will put you inside for Christmas.