Reality series following stolen possessions. The thief trackers hear how a biker helped track down motorbike thieves caught on camera.
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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.
The crooks think they've got away with it.
But we've got them under surveillance.
No, man. No, man.
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, we highlight the dangers of bogus caller crime...
I'm desperate for the loo, is there any chance and can use your toilet?
..as we show how easy it is to con your way
into someone's home and steal from them.
You don't think that sort of thing happens to you
but it does, obviously.
Plus, bikers help track down reckless motorbike thieves
caught on camera.
He sent me a photograph saying, "Is this your bike?"
And boat engine burglars are caught red-handed
thanks to tracking technology.
The outward motors is a huge, huge theft problem at the moment.
We hit 96 million euros of loss just in outboard engines.
Some of the sailing clubs have come and found that the whole
back of the boat has been cut off, probably with a chainsaw.
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.
My stuff's disappeared, mate.
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
when they're out and about, or even at home,
their prized possessions will be stolen.
Today, we're looking at the thieves who con their way into our homes.
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.
I think people become complacent.
If you're not in a high crime area and you're living in suburbia,
where crime levels are low,
well, how easy is it for somebody to turn up,
pitch up at your address and you think, "Oh, it's OK"?
It could be, "I'm an electrician,"
or, "I'm somebody that needs to check the water metre."
You've got a good excuse to get in.
It could be somebody that goes in, doesn't take anything,
but then lets somebody else know that you can commit burglary easy
because there's a nice TV, there's a wallet,
tell everybody the layout of the property.
And this is a classic example of how trusting the public are.
Today's target lives in a quiet neighbourhood.
His family are concerned that he's too complacent
when it comes to home security
and worry it won't be long before he's ripped off.
So the Thief Trackers team are rigging the place
with hidden cameras.
And when he comes home, we're going to try and con our way in,
steal his keys and drive off with his van.
With everyone in place, our man arrives.
Today's target is Matt. He owns a print and design company
and regularly deals with business enquiries at his home.
We've been told by his family that he is too trusting and relaxed
when it comes to home security.
So the team are going to show him what could happen
if he isn't more careful.
If we are going to steal his van, first, we need to get the keys,
which are indoors.
Our thief tracker is posing as a possible new business contact.
All right, you're on.
And she is going to prey on Matt's trusting nature
to con her way into the house.
If his family are right,
she should have plenty of opportunities to steal his keys.
-Hey, I'm here to pick up some T-shirt sample sizes.
Oh, brilliant. Can I be really annoying?
I'm desperate for the loo, is there any chance I can use your toilet?
-And just as we were told, without hesitation,
Matt's let a complete stranger into his house.
And in full view, sitting on the kitchen worktop, are his van keys.
Great, thank you.
Thanks for that.
Matt's distracted by a phone call and isn't paying any attention
to the stranger in his house.
She's now got free run of the place.
And with the van keys still there on the worktop,
our thief tracker makes her move and grabs them.
He thinks this is a business opportunity,
and so Matt is totally trusting of our thief tracker...
Thank you so much.
..unaware she's walking off with the keys to his van.
That's stage one of the operation.
I'm literally shaking.
It was so hard.
Later, we'll steal the van.
And Matt will face the harsh reality of being a victim of theft.
2016 saw the total number of motorbikes on our roads
rise to around 1.2 million.
However, this increase has also seen an upsurge in bike crime.
Over 600 motorbikes are stolen each week.
That's a biker's worst nightmare,
especially if, like Andy Williams,
your pride and joy is special to you.
My bike is built originally for racing in the desert,
for off-road and on road, and it's a gorgeous bike.
I bought it when I was living in Belgium in 1989
and it's been with me in different countries,
different places, ever since.
For me it's not the speed, it's the freedom.
One afternoon, Andy made a quick trip to the local shopping centre
I'd gone there to go off and just do an errand,
went off for 15 minutes or so...
..came back and there it was, gone.
There was almost like there was a pause in time
as I kind of worked out exactly where I was,
if I was in the right place.
Andy frantically looked for his bike and got a lead from
the parking attendant.
He said, "Well, yes, I saw some guys go off on a big bike
"up through that alley,"
and as mine was the only big bike that had been there, that was it.
So after that I knew something bad had happened.
Straightaway, he called the police.
I called the 101 number to report it stolen.
Took the details, and then I went and got the bus and went home.
I was feeling really dejected. I was kicking myself for being in a rush,
I should have locked it up and so on and so forth.
I, frankly, wasn't very optimistic.
Fearing he'd never see his bike again,
Andy decided to try and track it down himself.
He went online,
putting the word out to the biker community on social media.
There are a whole load of bikers' networks,
one or two national ones and another local one.
Put pictures on, all the details,
when, where, and my fingers crossed, hoping something would happen.
And then I went to bed and slept very badly.
The next morning, he logged back on to see
if there were any traces of his bike.
I'd have a look on the phone to see if anybody had responded
from my various postings, and there had been some,
people wishing me luck, people saying they had reposted it.
And then I got this call from Anastassia,
who it turned out was a member of the Northampton bikers' community.
And what she'd done, she'd sent me a photograph saying,
"Is this your bike?"
And it was.
Local biker Anastassia was out on a ride,
waiting at some traffic lights.
Lucky for Andy, she had a camera fitted to her crash helmet.
I heard another motorcyclist was on the same level as me,
so I just turned my head and there was a young lad
sitting on quite good and expensive motorbike.
So I was just thinking that a guy without proper gear,
in a cheap helmet, sitting on this kind of bike
seems very strange for me.
So I called her and said, you know, "Where was this?"
And she said, "In Northampton."
And she said, "A guy pulled up next to me
"and he pulled a wheelie."
I said to myself, this guy's just so arrogant doing this.
It kind of gave me a lot of hope because I thought, if he's local,
I can at least take my car out and start looking.
You know, it suggested to me that it was still around.
As Andy took to the streets,
his social media campaign began to pay off.
I started to get messages on SMS,
on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger,
they're coming in from all sorts of places.
And one lead gave Andy concrete evidence
his bike was still in the area.
I got this message with a photograph attached and the SMS message itself
said, "They're outside my house."
And the photograph was a picture of my bike with a rider on it,
just parked outside the house,
so that was very promising.
Except that something even stranger happened on the way.
I parked to check again the map, where it was.
There I was, checking the map, and the bike drove by me.
So, once the amazement had worn off, which took a split second,
I started off. I didn't chase it cos that would have been dangerous,
but I followed it at a distance.
The amateur detective was closing in on the thieves
and trailed them around the area until they turned down a close.
And there it was. Two riders and I think about six of their mates
just around the bike, talking.
So I was parked at the top end of the close and they were parked
down the bottom and I was watching them.
Although desperate to retrieve his bike,
with such a large group to contend with, he knew it wasn't safe
to confront them and needed to call in the professionals.
At that point I did call 999 because it was something happening.
So, I waited.
Before the police arrived, the thieves made off with the bike.
I followed them again but it was up to the end of the street
where I couldn't go any further.
It's off-road bike, so they had taken it across some grassland
over to the next road, but I couldn't follow them.
I went off back towards home and then I got an SMS.
And the SMS, and I still have it, the SMS said, "We've got your bike.
"Come and collect it."
And I thought, "Really?"
So all of a sudden, from feeling dejected,
there I was back on a high again.
It turned out that the wife of one of the members of the community
saw my bike outside their house.
They chased them out and into a field.
They ditched the bike then ran off.
So there he was with my bike in the middle of a field.
I was truly amazed. It had been literally 28 hours
since it had been stolen and there it was, it was back again!
So there I was back with my love, my bike.
I was close to ecstatic.
I mean, the first feeling was, "OK, what have they done to it?"
but in fact it turned out to be in pretty good shape.
There were some scratches in the paintwork,
the clutch had been damaged because they been doing wheelies
two and three up, but it was good enough to get me home.
Now reunited with his bike,
Andy wasn't going to make the same mistake again.
Always lock up your bike.
Now I have bought an extra heavy chain, I chain the bike up properly,
I put a tracker on it so that if anything were to happen now
I can also locate it.
Just generally being more careful about looking after it.
If it were to ever happen again or I heard anybody it happened to,
I would say, go on social networks, tell them about it.
One of the best places to go to is your own community, your own people,
We're returning to the Thief Trackers' undercover operation,
showing how easy we make it for thieves to steal our property.
Print and design businessman Matt's family had told us he just doesn't
take his home security seriously enough,
that he's too trusting of people he doesn't know.
-OK, let's go.
-And they were right,
as one of the Thief Trackers conned her way into his house...
I'm desperate for the loo. Any chance I can use your toilet?
..and took the keys to his van.
The coast is clear, so our thief tracker makes his move.
In seconds, Matt's van has been stolen from outside his house
and he's totally unaware.
Lucky for Matt, we're only taking it a short distance away.
And if this was a real theft,
his van would be long gone before he discovers it's missing.
My van's gone!
It was there, Jo. It's not there now.
The harsh reality of being a victim of crime is sinking in.
Before Matt calls the police, we send back our thief tracker.
I just looked at the T-shirts and I'm missing a size small.
Missing a size small, Jo.
My van's just got nicked, hasn't it?
-My van was there earlier, wasn't it?
Yeah. It's got nicked?
I think so.
Did you see anyone take it?
How could they have done that?
-I don't understand how someone's taken your van.
-No, nor do I.
So you didn't hear anything?
No, I've been working on my computer out the back.
You can't hear the front,
so you're out there tapping away, doing quotes and that, so...
Has it got anything valuable in it, or is it...?
Amazingly, it's still not clicked.
He's talking to a complete stranger, who he let into his house,
wondering what's happened to his keys.
Time to come clean.
Your van is safe.
And the reason I know your van is safe is because I took it.
-The whole point is to explain to people how quickly
they could become a victim of crime.
And it's just kind of a demonstration that you
let someone in and opened yourselves up...
No, that's good. No, that's really good, yeah.
It goes to show, be careful who you invite into your home.
Matt could have lost his van and its valuable contents.
We put a tracker inside Matt's van so that he can track it
on a smartphone to recover it.
-So, where are we going?
-I think it's pointing down that way.
It's down there, yeah.
Did you even think about... I'd come into your house?
-Did that cross your mind?
-No, it didn't because you came in, said,
"Oh, can I go to the toilet?" and things like that.
So it didn't even cross your mind that that could have been...
No, because you're an innocent-looking young lady
and you just wanted to go and use the toilet and you nicked my keys.
-You're a bad girl!
You don't think anything of it, but obviously now you do.
You think, "Oh, my God, what've I done that for?"
I feel a bit of an idiot, but fair play, you know.
How much of a pain would it be to not have your van?
Oh, it would be a major pain, a big annoyance,
because we use it all day at work, we're in and out of it all day.
And thieves can strike no matter where you live.
You don't realise it can happen to you,
especially being not in a town location.
Out in the middle of nowhere, you don't think that sort of thing
will happen to you, but it does, obviously.
The tracking device takes him on a short walk down the road,
where he's reunited with his van.
-I believe these are yours, sir.
Good to see you.
Did you freak out?
No, I just... I walked about like that, look.
One hell of a bit of kit in there.
That's about 1,500 quid in there.
Sue Hill takes a look at our undercover hit.
If you've got the front, you've got the confidence as a thief,
you'll get in anywhere.
Any chance I can use your toilet?
This man, I wouldn't think in a million years would ever suspect
that he'd be a victim of crime.
However, he was quite happy to let that young woman in.
She went to the toilet, did a recce of his house
and then managed to take the van keys.
He had no idea she had any connection.
Thank you, that's great.
Well, this tactic is burglary artifice.
Basically, someone has purported to be there collecting T-shirts.
And this is a classic example of how trusting the public are.
-That's amazing, thank you.
-All right, no worries.
That's great, thanks so much.
She's gone there to collect T-shirts,
so his mind-set is she's a customer. And then to go to the toilet.
She's young, attractive, she doesn't look like a thief,
it's not tattooed on her head, and why would she do that?
It's about trust. We are a very, very trusting society,
and I think sometimes we just become a bit comfortable
thinking where we live, "It's a lovely neighbourhood,
"it doesn't happen to people like us."
Well, actually, don't let it happen to people like you.
Just be aware. And this is a real wake-up call to all of us -
just be on your guard, don't make yourself a victim of crime,
you don't have to.
With his van safely back home, Matt agrees he needs to be
more vigilant and update his security measures.
You were walking down the street trying to recover the van.
-I had the tracker, yeah.
-That's useful technology.
It's very useful.
To be fair, now I'll go back and speak to Chris, my business partner,
and we'll probably put them in the vehicles because it's...
It's just the way forward, isn't it, really, to be fair?
You've done it as easy as that.
At least if I come out this time I can hit the button on the iPhone
or whatever and see where it is.
The worst thing is about it,
what a Muppet, because we haven't got trackers.
I think they're the way forward, to be fair.
Three and a half miles from the centre of Oxford
lies the Farmoor Reservoir, where you'll often find George Barker,
trustee and instructor of the Oxford Sailing Club,
messing about in boats.
The club we've got here is a school's sailing centre
where we take young people and teach them how to sail.
We are very fortunate. You know, we have a great stretch of water
and so a lot of different groups come here.
With around 14 billion litres of water beneath them,
the welfare of their young sailors is paramount.
For each group that goes out, there has to be a dedicated safety boat.
When we haven't got the powerboats,
none of the young people can go sailing because
whilst there's wind in the sailing boat, we can't provide
the safety cover, so it is absolutely crucial
that we've got operational safety boats.
Which is difficult to do without an engine, and in the past,
they've found themselves a target for thieves.
Unfortunately, we have had the engines stolen
a couple of times before.
And motorboat engines don't come cheap.
The larger ones, typically, to replace them new,
sort of around £6,000.
The smaller ones are £2,000, £2,500.
The sailing club members had to raise about £24,000
to replace all their engines,
which, in our sort of budget, is very significant.
These highly priced engines are desirable to thieves
who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
I mean, we've been fortunate. Some of the other sailing clubs
which have just got the smaller boats have very carefully
locked their engines to the back of the boat and they've come
and found that the whole back of the boat has been cut off,
probably with a chainsaw or whatever,
which means that the boat is written off as well.
With such high-value equipment, security at the club is crucial.
We then thought we needed to take more preventative measures.
We had some more security cameras put in,
we also, for the bigger engines on the shore,
we chain those and padlock those to the ground.
And also we then had some tracking devices fitted into the engines
so that we could monitor if they then move at unusual times,
and that obviously is an indication that something is amiss.
Early one morning, the trackers were put to the test
when thieves broke in and stole an outboard engine.
The sailing club and the reservoir is locked at night,
so they clearly cut through or ground through those
and then they've cut the padlocks and the bolts for the engines.
Marine investigator Simon Lofting
has seen a trend in this kind of crime.
Outboard motors in relation to maritime property is a huge,
huge theft problem at the moment across the whole of Europe.
The crimewave is put down to organised gangs from abroad.
Dealing in stolen outboard motors is a very lucrative business.
Two years ago, we hit 96 million euros of loss
just in outboard engines.
It mainly consists of Eastern European crime groups.
They will travel into the country,
they will steal outboard engines to order.
Another team will come in, take the engines and leave the UK
within a couple of days, so it's extremely well organised.
The value of the engines is extremely high.
So if you're looking at let's say, for instance,
150 horse power outboard engine, you could be paying anything
between £20,000-25,000 per engine.
And when you think an outboard engine is only held on
by four bolts, essentially, you've got yourself a nice
lump of money in your hand which is equivalent possibly to, you know,
four or five car thefts.
Thankfully, when the sailing club's engine was taken,
the tracker did its job and sent out an alert.
The tracking company picked up the signal,
and set about tracing the engine straightaway.
First thing we do is request the unit to go into alarm.
We send a text message to it to wake it up to turn its radio beacon on,
so that we can start tracking,
and start to work out where the unit's moving to, if it's moving.
Or if it's stationary, get an idea of where it's located.
When they have a position fix,
they can pass on the details to one of their team of expert trackers.
We've got a network of finders across the UK and Ireland.
All of them are ex-SAS or police or Army.
So, they've got the skill sets required to do the kinds of work
that's involved with tracking.
And we make sure that they're able to respond straightaway
when the unit next talks to us.
The signal from the outboard engine was moving west away from Oxford.
We tracked it going down the A40 towards Gloucester.
Once they've got the signal, they can then hone in on that,
and then get the assistance of the police, if required,
to make a recovery and any arrests.
We located it to an area in Bishops Cleve,
sent our finder to the site and he quite quickly picked up a signal,
and identified a white transit van,
which had been hired from a rental company.
The signal was coming from the back of the van.
The finder wasn't alone.
Plainclothes police were already there on stakeout
waiting for the thieves to show up.
The police instructed us that they wanted us to pull back a bit,
and to observe the van to see if anyone appeared
or to see if anything happened with the van.
They didn't have to wait long.
After a period of about 20, 30 minutes,
a car approached and dropped off two white males who were around
the area of the van for a period of five, ten minutes
before they got into the van and drove off.
The police gave chase along with our finder,
who was in the police car at the time.
And they ended up in a cul-de-sac.
There was no escape for the thieves.
The police had them trapped and made two arrests.
In the back of the van was a haul of 13 outboard engines.
When we heard that the engines had been found - absolutely amazed,
cos it had always been assumed that they immediately disappeared abroad.
And, yes, a fantastic result to get the engines back and then we were
operating again within a week.
We could have been out of action, notwithstanding having to spend a
lot of money, for more than a month or so.
From our point of view, it was sort of job done.
We got them back, so we can carry on operating.
So, that was a big relief.
The thief trackers highlight the dangers of bogus-caller crime, finding out how easy it is to con your way into someone's home and steal from them. They also hear how a biker helped track down motorbike thieves caught on camera and how boat engine burglars were caught red-handed thanks to tracking technology.