HOUSE break-ins have shot up by 46 per cent in Milngavie and Bearsden, new figures show.

The crime leap over the past year has fuelled fears that organised gangs are targeting middle class homes in the area.

In East Dunbartonshire there were 269 break-ins in 2010-11, up from 183 the year before - representing the highest figure since 2003-4.

However, the rise in housebreakings comes as overall offending in the area fell.

And the figures show that levels of home raids in the area are well below those recorded across the country - including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

It is believed that the rate of break-ins had been falling in East Dunbartonshire - until a new spate began last year, perhaps linked to organised gangs.

There has been a corresponding spike in break-ins in more affluent areas in East Renfrewshire, to the south of Glasgow.

Chief Superintendent Alan Bates of Strathclyde Police said: “The areas have similar demographics. Milngavie and Bearsden equate to Giffnock and Newton Mearns.

“There is always going to be the opportunity for crime in quieter areas with big houses and everything else that goes with it. There are going to be opportunities there that don’t exist elsewhere.

“Once you are in the house, you are going to get the more valuable stuff that is going to give you a quick buck.”

He insisted that officers in the north and south of the city are working to tackle several of the gangs which might be behind the crimes.

Superintendent Eddie Smith claimed this is already having an impact in East Dunbartonshire.

He said: “Between April 2011 and the beginning of September we managed to reduce housebreaking by around 22 per cent.

“However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that theft could start to rise if we don’t keep an eye on it.”

Figures show there has been a dramatic fall in vandalism in East Dunbartonshire, having almost halved from 1850 in 2006-7 to 956 in 2010-11.

Overall crime is down 14 per cent in the past five years, and violent crime is also down - there were no murders in 2010-11 and just 52 serious assaults, down from 77 the year before.