Families have been urged to ensure homes are kept locked and properties secure.
The warning follows a spate of incidents across South Tyneside, according to officers from Northumbria Police.
Sergeant John Bailey said: “We have offenders who will walk down the street overnight and try doors.
“They’ll go down the street and try to see if doors are left open and steal from there.”
He continued: “Most offences are not smashing windows and damaging car doors, it’s actually just going about trying car door handles.
“You can see on CCTV footage, them investigating it, they’ll try a door handle, they’ll cross the roads and just walk backwards and forwards.”
Sgt Bailey was speaking at Thursday’s (April 21) meeting of South Tyneside Council’s West Shields, Cleadon and East Boldon Community Area Forum (CAF).
Cllr Doreen Purvis, South Tyneside Council Whiteleas ward representative, said she was also aware of such incidents, adding people will try to enter homes and then claim they entered the wrong property by mistake if someone is present.
She said: “We’ve really got to get across to them that if anything happens such as somebody trying a door and walking into the living room, they’ve got to report it, because that’s been mentioned to me a few times.
“It’s obvious that there are opportunists walking along and all they’ve got to do is find one door open, and the residents upstairs or in the back kitchen.
“We do need to get over to people to take some responsibility for locking their front doors; when you come in at night lock the door, lock your car, take your purse and your handbag out the car, because the opportunists are all over.”
Police also urged residents to report such incidents so they can log occurrences of crime, adding if people cannot first get through at the time to keep trying.
Sergeant Bailey added: “Figures come from our computer system as to what is reported.
“If I can push that out to make sure that people aren’t sitting there silently and not reporting issues.”
For non-emergency incidents residents can contact police on 101 or report online.