Britain is the most burgled country in the EU.
In Leeds more than 250 criminals are on the street at any one time. It is Britain’s most burgled city. But in the last 12 months, West Yorkshire Police have reduced burglaries by a third through a programme of rehabilitation which pioneers an initiative called Anchor.
It was established to help burglars to give up crime and allow police to keep an eye on persistent offenders.
The police are given a list of the people being released from prison and officers ensure that they are given a bit more attention.
Channel 4’s Cutting Edge programme showed two recipients of this attention.
Mark’s first offence was at the age of 16 and he has been in prison for half his life. He fell in with the wrong crowd as a teenager at a children’s home and, because ‘everyone was grafting’, he felt he had to as well.
He burgled houses for over a decade but has been out of trouble for two years with just three weeks left of offender management. He wears a tag around his ankle which is charged in the same way as a mobile phone. The tag uses satellites to track his every movement and monitor what he is up to and whether he is sticking to his curfew and away from areas where he has previously committed burglaries.
At the end of the programme, he is shown having his ankle tag removed and talking about his plans to move away from Leeds and start afresh.
The police officers confirm that, ideally, they would like all offenders released from prison to be tagged because it would clear up a lot of burglaries over night.
Liam is a different matter. He has broken his probation terms twice before and is met as he leaves prison by his dad and Simon Lister from Offender Management, who asks what his plans are. The rules are that he must go straight to probation but Liam does not want to go there or to the hostel they have provided. He says there is trouble at the hostel and he will just fall back in with the wrong crowd.
Simon Lister explains that people like Liam have no job and no prospect of getting a job so what do they do all day? They get some cannabis, get high and then commit a burglary.
Liam is offered the chance to go on a course but he won’t go. He won’t talk to the police and in the end they take him back to prison because at least then he is not burgling people.
It was a really sad programme – both from the view point of the perpetrators and the victims. Last year in Leeds alone, there were over 5,000 victims of burglary including 99 year old Molly. She explained that they had jumped the fence at the bottom of her garden, taken the patio door clean out of its frame and then ransacked her home.
To someone who has never harmed anyone, it seemed inconceivable that anyone should do such a thing. And the knock-on effects of fear and anxiety saw her checking behind every curtain whenever she came into her home.
The programme also talked about Hanoi burglaries where homes are targeted because of the car on the drive and the goal is to take any valuables but also the car keys and then drive off in it. People who leave their car keys by the front door and in easy reach of the letterbox make life much easier.
Cars involved in this type of burglary need to be found within 48 hours then it is gone – abroad or stripped down for parts.
They also highlighted how areas where the homes have lots of windows can become target streets for burglars. They either remove the windows clean out of their frames to get in or they smash a small hole in a side window – enough to get ahead, shoulder and arm through to reach a bigger window that they can open.
Some areas are really easy pickings – especially where there are students. Many leave their doors unlocked altogether. The police were shown walking into homes and explaining to the occupants that they could have been a burglar and the laptop, television and mobile phone sitting on display would be gone. It doesn’t matter how much technical home security you have, if you leave the door unlocked, nothing can keep thieves out.
They also showed how commercial and residential CCTV systems can play a vital role in identifying thieves. If the footage can clearly show a thief committing a crime, this is vital evidence in the battle against burglary.
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