Police Scotland's senior officer for Helensburgh, Lomond, Cowal and Bute has warned people throughout the area to take extra steps to guard against crime during the winter.

Chief Inspector Douglas Wilson gave residents advice on how to protect their home against intruders during the longer nights, and how to keep themselves safe when out and about.

Chief Inspector Wilson said: "Whilst crime levels in our area are at historically low levels, it is still the case that people can reduce the likelihood of being a victim of crime.

"In relation to home security some simple good housekeeping measures can help to counter opportunist thieves.

"On many occasions criminals don’t actually have to use force to break in at all because a door or window has been left insecure.

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"Don’t leave keys in doors or in easy to find locations – in particular car keys are often found with the result that householder’s cars are stolen in addition to property from the home.

"Cash, jewellery and small electrical items are most commonly stolen – so avoid keeping large sums of money and consider a secure storage location for all such valuable items.

"Security lighting, alarms and good quality locks are a big deterrent and we stress that being a good neighbour and reporting any suspicious activity is also vital.

"I also draw attention to unexpected callers, who often claim to be from a utility company or the council and wish access to your home for some reason.

"These criminals can be very convincing but people should not feel any obligation to let them in. Ask for identification and call the company they claim to be from to confirm.

"If in any doubt call the police by dialling 101 and we will attend.

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"If you feel threatened or scared, immediately call 999. We would much rather attend a false alarm than have someone fall victim to doorstep crime.

"In terms of staying safe when out and about again your chances of becoming a victim of crime are low, but in general terms our advice is to plan your journey, carry a charged mobile phone and be mindful of your surroundings and look confident about where you are going.

"Be aware that the use of headphones can make you less aware of what is happening around you. Stick to well lit, busy areas and avoid alleyways, parks or waste ground.

"Stranger attacks are very rare in Argyll and Bute and it is a safe place to live and work.

"If you have any particular concerns, officers are happy to provide guidance and reassurance. Our website contains lots of very useful advice, or if you prefer please call 101 and ask for advice."

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