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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Bag snatchers, robberies and street crime.
More than 3,500 incidents of theft are reported every day in the UK.
But what happens to our belongings when they're stolen?
Thief Trackers shows how they're taken
and where they go.
Excuse me, mate, excuse me.
Hiding trackers inside items, like cameras,
smartphones and bicycles to trace the thieves' every move.
There he is, there he is. There he is, there he is.
The crooks think they've got away with it,
but we've got them under surveillance.
Using undercover footage, CCTV and tracking technology,
we'll uncover the unseen journey our belongings take when they're stolen.
And we'll shine a light on how easy we make it for thieves to plunder
our prized possessions.
Today, the thief trackers highlight
how quickly our valuables can be stolen.
And the impact it can have on any one of us.
Plus, a tracker on the trail of stolen power tools finds himself pursued by the crooks.
They reversed back out of the parking bay and started
driving up towards me.
That was quite scary.
And a biker gets more than he bargained for when tracking down his stolen motorbike.
The lad was shouting at me.
At that point, I thought I was probably out of my depth.
Over the years, Thief Trackers has shown what can happen when you're
careless with your valuables.
As we've seen time and again,
if you don't keep an eye on your property it can get stolen.
And you at home share our concerns.
Viewers have got in touch worried about friends and family who are
putting their valuables at risk.
We've heard countless stories of cavalier attitudes to security.
People who don't lock things up properly.
Who don't pay enough attention to their belongings...
..or who are too trusting of strangers.
I'm desperate for the loo.
Is there any chance I can use your toilet?
Our viewers are anxious that it is only a matter of time before thieves strike...
..and their friends become victims of crime.
So, our undercover team have been asked to give them a wake-up call,
showing that if they don't have their wits about them,
their prized possessions will be stolen.
Helping Thief Trackers with our operation is former detective chief
superintendent Sue Hill,
who has spent over 30 years tackling crime on the streets of the capital.
We all let our guard down when you're out socialising,
because actually the vast majority of us are really nice people and you
sit with nice people.
However, it only takes that one person and they'll see that moment
and they're gone before you know it.
Today's target is on his way to this restaurant for dinner.
We've rigged the place with hidden cameras,
so if he's as careless with his property as we've been told,
we'll try to steal it.
The team are ready to roll and our man should be arriving at any time.
Are we on, yeah? Did the car just go past?
It's going to happen any second now.
Good luck, everyone.
With everyone in place,
our guy arrives with his friend.
Oh, hello, mate.
Today's target is 39-year-old Luke.
He owns an entertainment business.
And we've heard from his friends and family that he has a habit of leaving
his phone and wallet on the table when he's out and about.
And they weren't wrong.
So, the team are going to show him what could happen if he isn't more careful.
Sitting at the bar is a member of the Thief Tracker squad.
Today, if Luke leaves his stuff unattended, he'll be our thief.
Luke settles down for dinner.
The team have asked his friend to find an appropriate time to leave the table.
-I've just got to go to the loo, mate. Excuse me, where's the toilet, please?
-Just over there.
With his friend no longer there,
our thief trackers keep a sharp lookout
to see if Luke does anything careless.
And this could be it.
He's taken a call,
but he has two phones and he's left the other one with his wallet on the table.
And true to form, he's walked away from his things -
leaving them unguarded just like his friend said.
Although he's loitering by the door,
he's now turned his back on his valuables.
This would be an open invitation to any thief.
This is our moment.
Later, Luke faces the harsh reality of being a victim of theft.
My stuff's disappeared, mate.
Building sites have long been a target for thieves,
with one in five experiencing theft on a weekly basis.
With heavy plant and tools left on-site overnight,
it makes for rich pickings for organised gangs.
But it's not just the large, high-priced equipment that attracts thieves.
Construction manager Peter Carter is well aware of this criminal threat.
We're a medium sized civil engineering firm, we operate nationally,
doing anything from roads, sewers, drainage,
removals and anything in between.
It is an expensive game.
The equipment varies in cost from a few hundred pounds up to £7 million.
As a result, it's quite desirable to thieves.
And they've suffered their fair share of robberies.
We'd had a lot of thefts.
Some of them are small value ones, some of them are large.
Each break-in costs us about £10,000 excess for every insurance claim.
Causes a big delay in production and it's generally an all-round kick in the teeth.
So, we'd become quite frustrated from having a lot of disruption caused by
small plant being stolen,
so we've decided to try and fit some of the trackers we regularly fit in
larger plant into some of our smaller equipment.
So they turn to Peter Thompson's tracking company for help.
It's quite an unusual item that we were tracking,
it was a saw used for cutting into concrete and heavy materials,
so the actual value of the item is only a few hundred pounds,
but they were getting hit really hard
with particular types of tool theft
and they were getting hit in the same areas,
and they really just wanted to put a stop to it.
We fitted trackers to two disc cutters.
One of these saws we would generally buy for about £500.
It's a small item,
they're very easy to pick up and walk away with and quite untraceable.
And sure enough, the weekend after they had fitted trackers,
their building site in Reading was targeted once again.
Thieves broke in and ransacked the place,
making off with two of their valuable cutting saws.
The guys came in on the Monday morning to find our containers ripped open,
plant strewn everywhere,
machinery taken out the place
and just the nasty aftermath of a break-in.
So, once we realised what had been stolen,
we realised some of the items had trackers in.
Straight away, we phoned Peter to get him and his team into action.
We were first notified of the theft of the cutting saw probably about
8.30am in the morning.
We immediately deployed an investigator,
in this case John Mussett,
who went down to site.
So, I had a look at the last location that they'd given,
which was in the early hours of the morning.
They were showing about five miles away from the site.
So, when I was about an hour away from Reading,
the office contacted me to say
that the track circle had moved and they'd
been looking at it every few minutes.
It had actually moved up to Henley-on-Thames.
So, from that,
we were of the opinion obviously
that wherever the two stolen saws were,
they were on the move, probably in a vehicle.
While I diverted to go through Henley,
they actually then moved back again,
the track circles, back to where they'd been originally in Reading.
I picked up a signal on the range finder.
That had taken me into an estate
where I'd ended up near to a corner shop.
The two suspect vehicles parked near to the corner shop.
A people carrier with one person in it,
one male initially outside the corner shop,
and a van just on the opposite corner, which was unoccupied.
Wasn't sure which vehicle the signal was coming from.
He had to call the police at that point,
because it's not safe for him to go in
and identify which vehicle without
revealing his identity to people that are watching.
So, he called the police in, but at that moment,
one of the vehicles drove away.
And the tracking signal was also on the move.
Which then told me that the stolen items were in the back of that
John was hot on their heels.
To be fair, it was probably one of the slowest pursuits I've ever been involved in.
It is very difficult to follow somebody at such a slow speed
and there were not many vehicles about.
It was literally, they were in front of me,
I was trying to keep a decent distance between us.
But at some point I think they had realised, probably quite early on,
that I was following them.
The thieves were constantly going around the estate,
kind of in a bit of a figure of eight, really.
It was all quite slow speed and then they went down a cul-de-sac.
I was aware it was a cul-de-sac and obviously wasn't going to
follow one of them to the bottom of it and leave myself vulnerable.
So, I stopped where another road came off the cul-de-sac.
And then waited, literally a minute,
and they reversed back out of the parking bay
and started driving up towards me.
It was quite scary, to be honest.
I then took the decision that I wasn't just going to sit there
to give them the opportunity to block me in.
So, I actually set off in front of them and then for probably
about four or five minutes, they were following me.
As the chase continued, John kept the police updated,
but the power tool thieves were closing in, right on his tail.
That's quite scary. When I heard the sirens, it was a big relief, yeah.
In total it probably wasn't that long, it seemed like a long time.
The police were coming from the opposite direction.
We'd gone onto the main road at this point.
So, I told the police there were no other vehicles between them and the subject vehicle.
They basically just pulled across the road
straight in front of it and kind of did a tactical stop.
The chase was over and, thanks to the tracker,
they'd caught the crooks red-handed,
around eight hours from when the saws were stolen.
The police had straightaway opened the driver's and passenger door
and got the two occupants out of the vehicle.
They detained them. But another officer went and searched the boot,
opened the boot of the vehicle, and there were the two stolen cutting saws in the boot.
I wasn't told till later on that they'd actually found,
I think it was at least two offensive weapons.
There was a pool ball in a sock and also a knife.
As well as quite a large quantity of drugs.
The thieves got their just deserts.
Sentenced to two years for both burglary and drug offences.
The really positive thing that's come out of this is that
the sting operation was actually successful.
Since that time,
there have been no further saws stolen or other items that they were
targeting with the sting operation,
and we appear to have disrupted that criminal network's activity.
The trackers were paramount.
Without the trackers, we wouldn't have got the saws back.
And the customer was really happy, they were over the moon with it.
With this theft, we found out that the items had been stolen about
eight o'clock in the morning, and by about four,
five o'clock in the evening they'd been recovered
and that is a fantastic feeling.
We're returning to the Thief Trackers' undercover operation,
showing how easy we make it for thieves to steal our property.
Earlier, the team rigged a restaurant with hidden cameras to await Luke -
a DJ, whose friends have told us doesn't pay enough attention to his
valuables when he's out.
And they were right.
During his meal, he left his phone and wallet unattended on the table.
And our man undercover is in position to strike.
Luke moves over to the doorway, possibly to get a better signal.
But as his friends predicted,
he unbelievably turns his back on his belongings -
an ideal opportunity for a thief to pounce.
And here goes our team member, with Luke just yards away at the door.
He goes for it...
..and grabs the phone and wallet.
His friends knew this would happen.
Luke turned his back for just a second or two,
but this was enough for our man to strike.
It's that quick.
In a flash, your valuables can be gone.
Our thief then makes his escape out the back door.
And as he makes off with the property, unchallenged,
Luke is totally oblivious.
He shows so little regard for his valuables,
he even steps outside unaware he has just been robbed.
So, how long will it be before he realises
his phone and wallet are missing?
But he's not sure if he's misplaced them or if they've been stolen.
The penny has dropped -
the stark realisation that his things have been stolen.
The question now is - what does he do?
By this time, a real thief could have taken any money in the wallet,
cloned his bank cards or gone to a cashpoint
and cleaned out his account.
The phone might have been sold or passed along the criminal chain
all in a matter of minutes.
He's saying that he's left his stuff there and it's all gone.
My stuff's disappeared, mate.
I've literally gone out for two seconds.
-You popped out for a couple of seconds.
-My case, everything.
Has one of the other members of staff picked it up?
No, you didn't even go over there, did you?
Only you was sitting there.
-What's going on?
-And someone else, some bloke walked past me.
I don't know where he's gone.
-Haven't you got a camera?
-I've got a camera, don't worry, don't worry.
-I've got cameras.
-What are you ringing?
Your phone number?
Well, let's have a look outside, see if...
It looks like Luke is about to cancel all his bank cards -
a wise move if ever your cards are stolen.
But in this case, he doesn't need to,
so time for the Thief Trackers to step in.
Come on, I think we might have to get involved in this.
Hi. My name's Paul, I'm a TV producer.
I just stole your property.
Don't cancel anything, everything is safe, we have all your belongings.
Would you like to go on a little walk with us
and recover your property?
Well, yeah, I need to recover my property, don't I?
I'm having that.
Down it, down it!
We've got a tracker on your property right now.
-And I'd like you to walk with us to recover it.
Using the smartphone's in-built tracking software,
Luke is able to follow the trail of his phone to recover it.
He'd left to go to the toilet,
my phone went and they couldn't hear me.
So, I moved and I saw someone walk past me.
I did look back.
But they'd already gone past my table.
There was a woman sitting there, so I just...
..carried on with the call.
How quickly did you realise that your stuff was gone?
As soon as I got back.
I thought maybe it's under something or I dropped it, I checked myself.
And, yeah, obviously it wasn't there.
It doesn't matter how safe you think you are -
never leave your valuables alone.
I suppose you get a little bit complacent with things.
There was no-one in there either.
And usually, we'd go out, we go to the same place,
everyone kind of knows you and you're not really worried about your stuff.
If it was busy, I might have been a bit more cautious.
Whether it's busy or not,
turning your back on your belongings
is an open invitation to have them stolen.
My dad's been in security for years,
so growing up with that,
you get it to rub off on you.
So, he's always told me, you know,
make sure you know your exits and you check all your surroundings.
So, I kind of feel like I do that in some sense.
-But not this time.
-But, yeah, obviously not enough.
Do you think this little exercise might make you rethink how casual you are with your belongings?
I've got a credit card, I've got current account.
It's my work phone as well,
so I've got a whole load of stuff on there to do
with all the up-and-coming work that I've got going on.
-So, basically your whole life...
-The more I think about it,
there's actually quite a lot that I'd lose out on.
It's actually horrible. I feel a bit sick thinking about it.
Looks like he's learnt his lesson.
In just a few seconds, Luke thought he'd lost his phone,
wallet and cards to thieves.
But with the help of the tracker, he could locate them.
Not everyone is that lucky.
I'll check it all, yeah.
Our crime analyst, Sue Hill, takes a look at our undercover hit.
He's completely unaware that his wallet and his phone's gone.
In many ways, it's probably worse that the restaurant was empty,
because then you haven't got so many eyes
looking at you or seeing the person
that's going to do the stealing.
The thief would be able to get away quicker and not be seen because
there are less witnesses to identify the crime and see what's going on.
The bottom line is - you don't know who you're dealing with,
and when you leave your property on that table,
don't leave it for somebody else to take,
cos your hard work will be someone else's reward.
So, just don't leave your property around.
And to be on the safe side, try to use a tracking device.
In most smartphones, they're installed as standard.
An advocate of this in-built tracking system is tech journalist
and gadget guru Stuart Miles.
So, the idea is that you turn the system on on your phone,
it's always on in the background, you don't really realise it's going,
and then when it comes to finding your device,
you can log in with your account details on a third device -
on a laptop or someone else's phone - and see where your device is.
It will ping a location beacon to say, "Hey, I'm over here!"
As long as the device is connected to the internet,
either through a wireless network or through your phone network,
then it can tell you where it is for you to be able to locate it.
The idea is that once you've activated the service, then it kind of deters
people from stealing your phone.
There's been quite a few case studies over the years.
People had realised their phone had gone and was able to check
the service and then apprehend the thief
within actually the same festival in that case
or go round to where they live and say,
"Er, you've got my phone."
I'd advise people to use the service proactively when they get the phone
and it hasn't been stolen.
You can't really use it once it's been stolen.
You have to have the device to be able to turn on the service.
So, it's one of those things,
there's no point closing the door after the horse has bolted, because
you've had to turn it on in the first place.
I think it's a brilliant service for allowing you to locate your phone,
whether you've lost it yourself or it has been stolen.
But there's also an air of caution here.
If you go off trying to hunt down your phone,
it might take you to a place where you're not really comfortable going,
or people that you might not be wanting to meet.
And at that point, if you feel scared,
then you should probably phone the police.
More than a million Brits opt for two wheels on the open road.
It's the freedom, the affordability and, for some, the power.
The bond between a biker and their motorcycle can be a very tight one.
Some riders think of their machines as one of their family,
like Leeds-based kitchen manager Craig Alford.
I love my bike just as much as I love my children, if anything.
It's an amazing bike, you can do anything to it.
Touch wood, I haven't come off it yet.
His latest bike is a 750cc superbike.
Brand-new, it costs around £10,000.
So, even second-hand, these machines are quite a target for bike thieves,
as Craig is all too aware.
I've been a victim of bike theft four times,
which was why as soon as I got my superbike I put a tracker on it
straightaway, so if it did get stolen I've got that peace of mind knowing
that I've got a chance of getting it back.
Craig turned to a relatively new local tracking company
set up by biking enthusiast Richard Holmes.
My inspiration was really to stop my friends' motorbikes being stolen.
I got tired,
I got upset seeing how many stolen bike posts were shared on Facebook,
how many heartbreaking stories of somebody losing not only their pride and joy,
but their way to get to work, their leisure time on the weekend,
thousands of pounds worth of cash all just taken away by somebody.
Using the latest satellite technology,
they can keep track of their customers' prized possessions.
Our trackers work by looking up...
Once you phone them, they look up at the sky for GPS positioning.
The unit then texts the owner with an accurate position that is
openable in any kind of common map app.
It wasn't long after he had the tracker installed that Craig would have to
test out this new system.
I was running a bit late for work,
so I didn't take my locks with me to secure my bike up.
It was just one of those days that I didn't lock it up.
His unlocked bike was a sitting duck.
It got stolen.
His schoolboy error gave thieves an opportunity to steal thousands of
pounds worth of motorbike.
I was shocked, angry,
I was frustrated.
It was time to test out his security system.
I contacted the tracker.
It then gave me its location.
And then I felt at ease, because I knew where it was.
The tracking data indicated his bike wasn't far away,
just a few miles on the outskirts of Leeds.
I started making my way to the location and it wasn't until I was
about five minutes away, I then contacted the police.
I just said to them, "My bike's fitted with a GPS tracker,
"I have its location and I'm en route,
"so I'd like the police to be there when I arrive."
Craig managed to get to the location before the police,
but was in no mood to hold on.
When I arrived at the location, unfortunately, me being me,
I didn't wait for the police,
knocked straight onto their front door.
I said, "Look, my bike's fitted with a GPS tracker
"and it's given me this address as the location."
The woman who answered the door denied all knowledge.
They then said, "No, there's nothing here."
So I said, you know, "Do you mind opening your garage,
"just for my peace of mind?"
They obliged, we walked around together.
She opened up the garage and there was my bike just sat in her garage.
He'd found his bike quite quickly,
so it's likely the thieves were still in the area.
Craig needed backup and fast.
As I was waiting for the police to arrive,
I'd walked back down onto the street and then as I stood there waiting,
two lads basically curveballed right past me.
Very stupidly, I then chased after them.
One of the lads who was on the moped, he rode off down the road.
The lad that was on the R1, I thought he'd stalled the bike.
He saw that I was catching up on him.
He then jumped off the bike and then ran off down the road.
And it turns out the ditched bike was also stolen.
Instead of riding off,
they parked up and one of the two men approached Craig.
Things were turning nasty.
The lad was shouting at me.
It was at that point I thought I was probably out of my depth a bit.
Thankfully, the police arrived before Craig came to any harm
and the two bike thieves scarpered.
When I heard that Craig had challenged the thieves directly,
my initial thoughts were panic.
The worst situation for me is to see one of our customers getting injured
or attacked for a motorbike.
The police do an excellent job,
we have a fantastic working relationship with the police,
and I beg everybody - do not try to tackle thieves on your own.
It was a narrow escape for Craig...
..but thanks to his tenacity and the tracker,
his bike wasn't the only stolen machine recovered that day.
The Yamaha R1 was stolen.
It unfortunately took some damage when it hit the floor,
cos when the bike thief jumped off, it was still rolling.
Reunited with his pride and joy, Craig was ecstatic.
It felt like Christmas.
You ask Santa for what you want and you open it up and it's there,
you've got it.
MOTORBIKE ENGINE HUMS
When Craig got his bike back, I was over the moon.
Quite simply, I take a lot of pride in my work,
I care about bikers.
When a bike gets stolen, I feel like it's my bike being stolen.
So, when Craig recovered his bike, I was just overjoyed.
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.