Episode 2 Thief Trackers


Episode 2

Reality series following stolen possessions. The thief trackers highlight how quickly valuables can be stolen if someone takes their eye off them.


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Transcript


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Bag snatchers, robberies and street crime.

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More than 3,500 incidents of theft are reported every day in the UK.

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But what happens to our belongings when they're stolen?

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Thief Trackers shows how they're taken

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and where they go.

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Excuse me, mate, excuse me.

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Hiding trackers inside items, like cameras,

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smartphones and bicycles to trace the thieves' every move.

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There he is, there he is. There he is, there he is.

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The crooks think they've got away with it,

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but we've got them under surveillance.

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No, man.

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Using undercover footage, CCTV and tracking technology,

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we'll uncover the unseen journey our belongings take when they're stolen.

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And we'll shine a light on how easy we make it for thieves to plunder

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our prized possessions.

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Today, the thief trackers highlight

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how quickly our valuables can be stolen.

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And the impact it can have on any one of us.

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Plus, a tracker on the trail of stolen power tools finds himself pursued by the crooks.

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They reversed back out of the parking bay and started

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driving up towards me.

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That was quite scary.

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And a biker gets more than he bargained for when tracking down his stolen motorbike.

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The lad was shouting at me.

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At that point, I thought I was probably out of my depth.

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Over the years, Thief Trackers has shown what can happen when you're

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careless with your valuables.

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As we've seen time and again,

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if you don't keep an eye on your property it can get stolen.

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And you at home share our concerns.

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Viewers have got in touch worried about friends and family who are

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putting their valuables at risk.

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We've heard countless stories of cavalier attitudes to security.

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People who don't lock things up properly.

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Who don't pay enough attention to their belongings...

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..or who are too trusting of strangers.

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I'm desperate for the loo.

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Is there any chance I can use your toilet?

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-Thank you.

-She's in.

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Our viewers are anxious that it is only a matter of time before thieves strike...

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..and their friends become victims of crime.

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So, our undercover team have been asked to give them a wake-up call,

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showing that if they don't have their wits about them,

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their prized possessions will be stolen.

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Helping Thief Trackers with our operation is former detective chief

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superintendent Sue Hill,

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who has spent over 30 years tackling crime on the streets of the capital.

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We all let our guard down when you're out socialising,

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because actually the vast majority of us are really nice people and you

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sit with nice people.

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However, it only takes that one person and they'll see that moment

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and they're gone before you know it.

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Today's target is on his way to this restaurant for dinner.

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We've rigged the place with hidden cameras,

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so if he's as careless with his property as we've been told,

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we'll try to steal it.

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The team are ready to roll and our man should be arriving at any time.

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Are we on, yeah? Did the car just go past?

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It's going to happen any second now.

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Good luck, everyone.

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With everyone in place,

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our guy arrives with his friend.

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Oh, hello, mate.

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Today's target is 39-year-old Luke.

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He owns an entertainment business.

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And we've heard from his friends and family that he has a habit of leaving

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his phone and wallet on the table when he's out and about.

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And they weren't wrong.

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So, the team are going to show him what could happen if he isn't more careful.

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Sitting at the bar is a member of the Thief Tracker squad.

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Today, if Luke leaves his stuff unattended, he'll be our thief.

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Luke settles down for dinner.

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The team have asked his friend to find an appropriate time to leave the table.

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-I've just got to go to the loo, mate. Excuse me, where's the toilet, please?

-Just over there.

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Thank you.

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With his friend no longer there,

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our thief trackers keep a sharp lookout

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to see if Luke does anything careless.

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Hello.

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And this could be it.

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He's taken a call,

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but he has two phones and he's left the other one with his wallet on the table.

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And true to form, he's walked away from his things -

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leaving them unguarded just like his friend said.

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Although he's loitering by the door,

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he's now turned his back on his valuables.

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This would be an open invitation to any thief.

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This is our moment.

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Later, Luke faces the harsh reality of being a victim of theft.

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My stuff's disappeared, mate.

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Building sites have long been a target for thieves,

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with one in five experiencing theft on a weekly basis.

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With heavy plant and tools left on-site overnight,

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it makes for rich pickings for organised gangs.

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But it's not just the large, high-priced equipment that attracts thieves.

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Construction manager Peter Carter is well aware of this criminal threat.

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We're a medium sized civil engineering firm, we operate nationally,

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doing anything from roads, sewers, drainage,

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removals and anything in between.

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It is an expensive game.

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The equipment varies in cost from a few hundred pounds up to £7 million.

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As a result, it's quite desirable to thieves.

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And they've suffered their fair share of robberies.

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We'd had a lot of thefts.

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Some of them are small value ones, some of them are large.

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Each break-in costs us about £10,000 excess for every insurance claim.

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Causes a big delay in production and it's generally an all-round kick in the teeth.

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So, we'd become quite frustrated from having a lot of disruption caused by

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small plant being stolen,

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so we've decided to try and fit some of the trackers we regularly fit in

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larger plant into some of our smaller equipment.

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So they turn to Peter Thompson's tracking company for help.

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It's quite an unusual item that we were tracking,

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it was a saw used for cutting into concrete and heavy materials,

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so the actual value of the item is only a few hundred pounds,

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but they were getting hit really hard

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with particular types of tool theft

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and they were getting hit in the same areas,

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and they really just wanted to put a stop to it.

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We fitted trackers to two disc cutters.

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One of these saws we would generally buy for about £500.

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It's a small item,

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they're very easy to pick up and walk away with and quite untraceable.

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And sure enough, the weekend after they had fitted trackers,

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their building site in Reading was targeted once again.

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Thieves broke in and ransacked the place,

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making off with two of their valuable cutting saws.

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The guys came in on the Monday morning to find our containers ripped open,

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plant strewn everywhere,

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machinery taken out the place

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and just the nasty aftermath of a break-in.

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So, once we realised what had been stolen,

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we realised some of the items had trackers in.

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Straight away, we phoned Peter to get him and his team into action.

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We were first notified of the theft of the cutting saw probably about

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8.30am in the morning.

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We immediately deployed an investigator,

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in this case John Mussett,

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who went down to site.

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So, I had a look at the last location that they'd given,

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which was in the early hours of the morning.

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They were showing about five miles away from the site.

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So, when I was about an hour away from Reading,

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the office contacted me to say

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that the track circle had moved and they'd

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been looking at it every few minutes.

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It had actually moved up to Henley-on-Thames.

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So, from that,

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we were of the opinion obviously

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that wherever the two stolen saws were,

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they were on the move, probably in a vehicle.

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While I diverted to go through Henley,

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they actually then moved back again,

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the track circles, back to where they'd been originally in Reading.

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I picked up a signal on the range finder.

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That had taken me into an estate

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where I'd ended up near to a corner shop.

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The two suspect vehicles parked near to the corner shop.

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A people carrier with one person in it,

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one male initially outside the corner shop,

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and a van just on the opposite corner, which was unoccupied.

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Wasn't sure which vehicle the signal was coming from.

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He had to call the police at that point,

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because it's not safe for him to go in

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and identify which vehicle without

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revealing his identity to people that are watching.

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So, he called the police in, but at that moment,

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one of the vehicles drove away.

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And the tracking signal was also on the move.

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Which then told me that the stolen items were in the back of that

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particular vehicle.

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John was hot on their heels.

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To be fair, it was probably one of the slowest pursuits I've ever been involved in.

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It is very difficult to follow somebody at such a slow speed

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and there were not many vehicles about.

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It was literally, they were in front of me,

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I was trying to keep a decent distance between us.

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But at some point I think they had realised, probably quite early on,

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that I was following them.

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The thieves were constantly going around the estate,

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kind of in a bit of a figure of eight, really.

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It was all quite slow speed and then they went down a cul-de-sac.

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I was aware it was a cul-de-sac and obviously wasn't going to

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follow one of them to the bottom of it and leave myself vulnerable.

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So, I stopped where another road came off the cul-de-sac.

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And then waited, literally a minute,

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and they reversed back out of the parking bay

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and started driving up towards me.

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It was quite scary, to be honest.

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I then took the decision that I wasn't just going to sit there

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to give them the opportunity to block me in.

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So, I actually set off in front of them and then for probably

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about four or five minutes, they were following me.

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As the chase continued, John kept the police updated,

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but the power tool thieves were closing in, right on his tail.

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That's quite scary. When I heard the sirens, it was a big relief, yeah.

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In total it probably wasn't that long, it seemed like a long time.

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The police were coming from the opposite direction.

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We'd gone onto the main road at this point.

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So, I told the police there were no other vehicles between them and the subject vehicle.

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They basically just pulled across the road

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straight in front of it and kind of did a tactical stop.

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The chase was over and, thanks to the tracker,

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they'd caught the crooks red-handed,

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around eight hours from when the saws were stolen.

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The police had straightaway opened the driver's and passenger door

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and got the two occupants out of the vehicle.

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They detained them. But another officer went and searched the boot,

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opened the boot of the vehicle, and there were the two stolen cutting saws in the boot.

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I wasn't told till later on that they'd actually found,

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I think it was at least two offensive weapons.

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There was a pool ball in a sock and also a knife.

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As well as quite a large quantity of drugs.

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The thieves got their just deserts.

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Sentenced to two years for both burglary and drug offences.

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The really positive thing that's come out of this is that

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the sting operation was actually successful.

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Since that time,

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there have been no further saws stolen or other items that they were

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targeting with the sting operation,

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and we appear to have disrupted that criminal network's activity.

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The trackers were paramount.

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Without the trackers, we wouldn't have got the saws back.

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And the customer was really happy, they were over the moon with it.

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With this theft, we found out that the items had been stolen about

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eight o'clock in the morning, and by about four,

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five o'clock in the evening they'd been recovered

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and that is a fantastic feeling.

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We're returning to the Thief Trackers' undercover operation,

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showing how easy we make it for thieves to steal our property.

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Earlier, the team rigged a restaurant with hidden cameras to await Luke -

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a DJ, whose friends have told us doesn't pay enough attention to his

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valuables when he's out.

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And they were right.

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During his meal, he left his phone and wallet unattended on the table.

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And our man undercover is in position to strike.

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Luke moves over to the doorway, possibly to get a better signal.

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But as his friends predicted,

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he unbelievably turns his back on his belongings -

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an ideal opportunity for a thief to pounce.

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And here goes our team member, with Luke just yards away at the door.

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He goes for it...

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..and grabs the phone and wallet.

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His friends knew this would happen.

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Luke turned his back for just a second or two,

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but this was enough for our man to strike.

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It's that quick.

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In a flash, your valuables can be gone.

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Our thief then makes his escape out the back door.

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And as he makes off with the property, unchallenged,

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Luke is totally oblivious.

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He shows so little regard for his valuables,

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he even steps outside unaware he has just been robbed.

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He returns.

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So, how long will it be before he realises

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his phone and wallet are missing?

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He's noticed.

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But he's not sure if he's misplaced them or if they've been stolen.

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The penny has dropped -

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the stark realisation that his things have been stolen.

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The question now is - what does he do?

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By this time, a real thief could have taken any money in the wallet,

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cloned his bank cards or gone to a cashpoint

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and cleaned out his account.

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The phone might have been sold or passed along the criminal chain

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all in a matter of minutes.

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-What's happened?

-Hello, mate.

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He's saying that he's left his stuff there and it's all gone.

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My stuff's disappeared, mate.

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I've literally gone out for two seconds.

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-You popped out for a couple of seconds.

-My case, everything.

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Has one of the other members of staff picked it up?

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No, you didn't even go over there, did you?

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Only you was sitting there.

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-What's going on?

-And someone else, some bloke walked past me.

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I don't know where he's gone.

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-Haven't you got a camera?

-I've got a camera, don't worry, don't worry.

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-I've got cameras.

-What are you ringing?

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Your phone number?

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Well, let's have a look outside, see if...

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It looks like Luke is about to cancel all his bank cards -

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a wise move if ever your cards are stolen.

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But in this case, he doesn't need to,

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so time for the Thief Trackers to step in.

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Come on, I think we might have to get involved in this.

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Luke?

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Hi. My name's Paul, I'm a TV producer.

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I just stole your property.

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Don't cancel anything, everything is safe, we have all your belongings.

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Would you like to go on a little walk with us

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and recover your property?

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Well, yeah, I need to recover my property, don't I?

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I'm having that.

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Down it, down it!

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We've got a tracker on your property right now.

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-There.

-And I'd like you to walk with us to recover it.

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Using the smartphone's in-built tracking software,

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Luke is able to follow the trail of his phone to recover it.

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He'd left to go to the toilet,

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my phone went and they couldn't hear me.

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So, I moved and I saw someone walk past me.

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I did look back.

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But they'd already gone past my table.

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There was a woman sitting there, so I just...

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..carried on with the call.

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How quickly did you realise that your stuff was gone?

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As soon as I got back.

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I thought maybe it's under something or I dropped it, I checked myself.

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And, yeah, obviously it wasn't there.

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It doesn't matter how safe you think you are -

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never leave your valuables alone.

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I suppose you get a little bit complacent with things.

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There was no-one in there either.

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And usually, we'd go out, we go to the same place,

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everyone kind of knows you and you're not really worried about your stuff.

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If it was busy, I might have been a bit more cautious.

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Whether it's busy or not,

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turning your back on your belongings

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is an open invitation to have them stolen.

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My dad's been in security for years,

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so growing up with that,

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you get it to rub off on you.

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So, he's always told me, you know,

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make sure you know your exits and you check all your surroundings.

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So, I kind of feel like I do that in some sense.

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-But not this time.

-But, yeah, obviously not enough.

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Do you think this little exercise might make you rethink how casual you are with your belongings?

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I've got a credit card, I've got current account.

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It's my work phone as well,

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so I've got a whole load of stuff on there to do

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with all the up-and-coming work that I've got going on.

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-So, basically your whole life...

-The more I think about it,

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there's actually quite a lot that I'd lose out on.

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It's actually horrible. I feel a bit sick thinking about it.

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Looks like he's learnt his lesson.

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In just a few seconds, Luke thought he'd lost his phone,

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wallet and cards to thieves.

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But with the help of the tracker, he could locate them.

0:18:520:18:54

Not everyone is that lucky.

0:18:560:18:58

I'll check it all, yeah.

0:18:580:18:59

Our crime analyst, Sue Hill, takes a look at our undercover hit.

0:19:010:19:06

He's completely unaware that his wallet and his phone's gone.

0:19:060:19:10

In many ways, it's probably worse that the restaurant was empty,

0:19:100:19:13

because then you haven't got so many eyes

0:19:130:19:15

looking at you or seeing the person

0:19:150:19:17

that's going to do the stealing.

0:19:170:19:19

The thief would be able to get away quicker and not be seen because

0:19:190:19:22

there are less witnesses to identify the crime and see what's going on.

0:19:220:19:25

The bottom line is - you don't know who you're dealing with,

0:19:250:19:28

and when you leave your property on that table,

0:19:280:19:30

don't leave it for somebody else to take,

0:19:300:19:33

cos your hard work will be someone else's reward.

0:19:330:19:36

So, just don't leave your property around.

0:19:360:19:40

And to be on the safe side, try to use a tracking device.

0:19:400:19:44

In most smartphones, they're installed as standard.

0:19:440:19:46

An advocate of this in-built tracking system is tech journalist

0:19:480:19:51

and gadget guru Stuart Miles.

0:19:510:19:54

So, the idea is that you turn the system on on your phone,

0:19:540:19:58

it's always on in the background, you don't really realise it's going,

0:19:580:20:01

and then when it comes to finding your device,

0:20:010:20:03

you can log in with your account details on a third device -

0:20:030:20:06

on a laptop or someone else's phone - and see where your device is.

0:20:060:20:11

It will ping a location beacon to say, "Hey, I'm over here!"

0:20:110:20:17

As long as the device is connected to the internet,

0:20:180:20:21

either through a wireless network or through your phone network,

0:20:210:20:23

then it can tell you where it is for you to be able to locate it.

0:20:230:20:26

The idea is that once you've activated the service, then it kind of deters

0:20:290:20:33

people from stealing your phone.

0:20:330:20:35

There's been quite a few case studies over the years.

0:20:350:20:38

People had realised their phone had gone and was able to check

0:20:380:20:41

the service and then apprehend the thief

0:20:410:20:44

within actually the same festival in that case

0:20:440:20:47

or go round to where they live and say,

0:20:470:20:49

"Er, you've got my phone."

0:20:490:20:50

I'd advise people to use the service proactively when they get the phone

0:20:520:20:55

and it hasn't been stolen.

0:20:550:20:57

You can't really use it once it's been stolen.

0:20:570:20:59

You have to have the device to be able to turn on the service.

0:20:590:21:03

So, it's one of those things,

0:21:030:21:04

there's no point closing the door after the horse has bolted, because

0:21:040:21:08

you've had to turn it on in the first place.

0:21:080:21:10

I think it's a brilliant service for allowing you to locate your phone,

0:21:110:21:14

whether you've lost it yourself or it has been stolen.

0:21:140:21:17

But there's also an air of caution here.

0:21:170:21:19

If you go off trying to hunt down your phone,

0:21:190:21:21

it might take you to a place where you're not really comfortable going,

0:21:210:21:25

or people that you might not be wanting to meet.

0:21:250:21:28

And at that point, if you feel scared,

0:21:280:21:32

then you should probably phone the police.

0:21:320:21:34

More than a million Brits opt for two wheels on the open road.

0:21:380:21:42

It's the freedom, the affordability and, for some, the power.

0:21:420:21:46

The bond between a biker and their motorcycle can be a very tight one.

0:21:470:21:51

Some riders think of their machines as one of their family,

0:21:510:21:54

like Leeds-based kitchen manager Craig Alford.

0:21:540:21:58

I love my bike just as much as I love my children, if anything.

0:21:580:22:02

It's an amazing bike, you can do anything to it.

0:22:020:22:04

Touch wood, I haven't come off it yet.

0:22:050:22:07

HE LAUGHS

0:22:070:22:08

His latest bike is a 750cc superbike.

0:22:090:22:13

Brand-new, it costs around £10,000.

0:22:130:22:16

So, even second-hand, these machines are quite a target for bike thieves,

0:22:160:22:20

as Craig is all too aware.

0:22:200:22:23

I've been a victim of bike theft four times,

0:22:230:22:27

which was why as soon as I got my superbike I put a tracker on it

0:22:270:22:30

straightaway, so if it did get stolen I've got that peace of mind knowing

0:22:300:22:35

that I've got a chance of getting it back.

0:22:350:22:38

Craig turned to a relatively new local tracking company

0:22:380:22:42

set up by biking enthusiast Richard Holmes.

0:22:420:22:45

My inspiration was really to stop my friends' motorbikes being stolen.

0:22:450:22:50

I got tired,

0:22:500:22:52

I got upset seeing how many stolen bike posts were shared on Facebook,

0:22:520:22:56

how many heartbreaking stories of somebody losing not only their pride and joy,

0:22:560:23:01

but their way to get to work, their leisure time on the weekend,

0:23:010:23:05

thousands of pounds worth of cash all just taken away by somebody.

0:23:050:23:10

Using the latest satellite technology,

0:23:100:23:13

they can keep track of their customers' prized possessions.

0:23:130:23:16

Our trackers work by looking up...

0:23:170:23:21

Once you phone them, they look up at the sky for GPS positioning.

0:23:210:23:25

The unit then texts the owner with an accurate position that is

0:23:250:23:29

openable in any kind of common map app.

0:23:290:23:32

It wasn't long after he had the tracker installed that Craig would have to

0:23:340:23:38

test out this new system.

0:23:380:23:39

I was running a bit late for work,

0:23:410:23:43

so I didn't take my locks with me to secure my bike up.

0:23:430:23:47

It was just one of those days that I didn't lock it up.

0:23:470:23:51

His unlocked bike was a sitting duck.

0:23:530:23:55

It got stolen.

0:23:550:23:57

His schoolboy error gave thieves an opportunity to steal thousands of

0:23:570:24:02

pounds worth of motorbike.

0:24:020:24:04

I was shocked, angry,

0:24:040:24:08

I was frustrated.

0:24:080:24:09

It was time to test out his security system.

0:24:110:24:13

I contacted the tracker.

0:24:150:24:16

It then gave me its location.

0:24:160:24:18

Erm...

0:24:180:24:20

And then I felt at ease, because I knew where it was.

0:24:200:24:23

The tracking data indicated his bike wasn't far away,

0:24:240:24:28

just a few miles on the outskirts of Leeds.

0:24:280:24:30

I started making my way to the location and it wasn't until I was

0:24:330:24:38

about five minutes away, I then contacted the police.

0:24:380:24:42

I just said to them, "My bike's fitted with a GPS tracker,

0:24:420:24:46

"I have its location and I'm en route,

0:24:460:24:49

"so I'd like the police to be there when I arrive."

0:24:490:24:51

Craig managed to get to the location before the police,

0:24:540:24:57

but was in no mood to hold on.

0:24:570:24:59

When I arrived at the location, unfortunately, me being me,

0:25:000:25:05

I didn't wait for the police,

0:25:050:25:07

knocked straight onto their front door.

0:25:070:25:10

I said, "Look, my bike's fitted with a GPS tracker

0:25:100:25:13

"and it's given me this address as the location."

0:25:130:25:17

The woman who answered the door denied all knowledge.

0:25:190:25:22

They then said, "No, there's nothing here."

0:25:230:25:26

So I said, you know, "Do you mind opening your garage,

0:25:260:25:28

"just for my peace of mind?"

0:25:280:25:31

They obliged, we walked around together.

0:25:310:25:34

She opened up the garage and there was my bike just sat in her garage.

0:25:350:25:39

He'd found his bike quite quickly,

0:25:390:25:41

so it's likely the thieves were still in the area.

0:25:410:25:44

Craig needed backup and fast.

0:25:440:25:47

As I was waiting for the police to arrive,

0:25:470:25:50

I'd walked back down onto the street and then as I stood there waiting,

0:25:500:25:55

two lads basically curveballed right past me.

0:25:550:26:00

Very stupidly, I then chased after them.

0:26:000:26:04

One of the lads who was on the moped, he rode off down the road.

0:26:040:26:07

The lad that was on the R1, I thought he'd stalled the bike.

0:26:070:26:12

He saw that I was catching up on him.

0:26:120:26:15

He then jumped off the bike and then ran off down the road.

0:26:150:26:18

And it turns out the ditched bike was also stolen.

0:26:180:26:20

Instead of riding off,

0:26:220:26:24

they parked up and one of the two men approached Craig.

0:26:240:26:28

Things were turning nasty.

0:26:280:26:30

The lad was shouting at me.

0:26:300:26:31

It was at that point I thought I was probably out of my depth a bit.

0:26:330:26:38

Thankfully, the police arrived before Craig came to any harm

0:26:390:26:42

and the two bike thieves scarpered.

0:26:420:26:44

When I heard that Craig had challenged the thieves directly,

0:26:470:26:50

my initial thoughts were panic.

0:26:500:26:52

The worst situation for me is to see one of our customers getting injured

0:26:520:26:57

or attacked for a motorbike.

0:26:570:26:59

The police do an excellent job,

0:27:000:27:02

we have a fantastic working relationship with the police,

0:27:020:27:05

and I beg everybody - do not try to tackle thieves on your own.

0:27:050:27:09

It was a narrow escape for Craig...

0:27:090:27:11

..but thanks to his tenacity and the tracker,

0:27:120:27:15

his bike wasn't the only stolen machine recovered that day.

0:27:150:27:19

The Yamaha R1 was stolen.

0:27:190:27:22

It unfortunately took some damage when it hit the floor,

0:27:220:27:24

cos when the bike thief jumped off, it was still rolling.

0:27:240:27:27

Reunited with his pride and joy, Craig was ecstatic.

0:27:270:27:30

It felt like Christmas.

0:27:330:27:34

You ask Santa for what you want and you open it up and it's there,

0:27:360:27:40

you've got it.

0:27:400:27:41

MOTORBIKE ENGINE HUMS

0:27:450:27:46

When Craig got his bike back, I was over the moon.

0:27:470:27:50

Quite simply, I take a lot of pride in my work,

0:27:500:27:53

I care about bikers.

0:27:530:27:54

When a bike gets stolen, I feel like it's my bike being stolen.

0:27:560:27:59

So, when Craig recovered his bike, I was just overjoyed.

0:28:010:28:04

BIKE ENGINE

0:28:070:28:08

The thief trackers highlight how quickly valuables can be stolen if someone takes their eye off them. They also hear how a tracker on the trail of stolen power tools found himself pursued by the crooks and how a biker got more than he bargained for when tracking down his stolen motorbike.