Episode 4 Thief Trackers


Episode 4

Reality series following stolen possessions. The thief trackers hear how a biker helped track down motorbike thieves caught on camera.


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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 and where they go.

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Excuse me, mate. Excuse me.

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Hiding trackers inside items like cameras, smartphones

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and bicycles to trace the thieves' every move.

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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. 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

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to plunder our prized possessions.

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Today, we highlight the dangers of bogus caller crime...

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I'm desperate for the loo, is there any chance and can use your toilet?

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Thank you.

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..as we show how easy it is to con your way

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into someone's home and steal from them.

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You don't think that sort of thing happens to you

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but it does, obviously.

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Plus, bikers help track down reckless motorbike thieves

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caught on camera.

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He sent me a photograph saying, "Is this your bike?"

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And boat engine burglars are caught red-handed

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thanks to tracking technology.

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The outward motors is a huge, huge theft problem at the moment.

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We hit 96 million euros of loss just in outboard engines.

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Some of the sailing clubs have come and found that the whole

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back of the boat has been cut off, probably with a chainsaw.

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Over the years, Thief Trackers has shown what can happen

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when you're careless with your valuables.

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As we've seen time and again, if you don't keep an eye on your property,

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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

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who are 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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My stuff's disappeared, mate.

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Our viewers are anxious that it is only a matter of time

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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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when they're out and about, or even at home,

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their prized possessions will be stolen.

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Today, we're looking at the thieves who con their way into our homes.

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Helping Thief Trackers with our operation is

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former Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Hill,

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who has spent over 30 years tackling crime

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on the streets of the capital.

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I think people become complacent.

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If you're not in a high crime area and you're living in suburbia,

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where crime levels are low,

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well, how easy is it for somebody to turn up,

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pitch up at your address and you think, "Oh, it's OK"?

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It could be, "I'm an electrician,"

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or, "I'm somebody that needs to check the water metre."

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You've got a good excuse to get in.

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It could be somebody that goes in, doesn't take anything,

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but then lets somebody else know that you can commit burglary easy

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because there's a nice TV, there's a wallet,

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tell everybody the layout of the property.

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And this is a classic example of how trusting the public are.

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Today's target lives in a quiet neighbourhood.

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His family are concerned that he's too complacent

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when it comes to home security

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and worry it won't be long before he's ripped off.

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So the Thief Trackers team are rigging the place

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with hidden cameras.

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And when he comes home, we're going to try and con our way in,

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steal his keys and drive off with his van.

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With everyone in place, our man arrives.

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Today's target is Matt. He owns a print and design company

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and regularly deals with business enquiries at his home.

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We've been told by his family that he is too trusting and relaxed

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when it comes to home security.

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So the team are going to show him what could happen

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if he isn't more careful.

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If we are going to steal his van, first, we need to get the keys,

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which are indoors.

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Our thief tracker is posing as a possible new business contact.

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All right, you're on.

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And she is going to prey on Matt's trusting nature

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to con her way into the house.

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If his family are right,

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she should have plenty of opportunities to steal his keys.

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-Hello.

-Hey, I'm here to pick up some T-shirt sample sizes.

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Oh, brilliant. Can I be really annoying?

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I'm desperate for the loo, is there any chance I can use your toilet?

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-Thank you.

-And just as we were told, without hesitation,

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Matt's let a complete stranger into his house.

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And in full view, sitting on the kitchen worktop, are his van keys.

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Great, thank you.

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Thanks for that.

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Matt's distracted by a phone call and isn't paying any attention

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to the stranger in his house.

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She's now got free run of the place.

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And with the van keys still there on the worktop,

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our thief tracker makes her move and grabs them.

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He thinks this is a business opportunity,

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and so Matt is totally trusting of our thief tracker...

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Thank you so much.

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..unaware she's walking off with the keys to his van.

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That's stage one of the operation.

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I'm literally shaking.

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It was so hard.

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Later, we'll steal the van.

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And Matt will face the harsh reality of being a victim of theft.

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2016 saw the total number of motorbikes on our roads

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rise to around 1.2 million.

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However, this increase has also seen an upsurge in bike crime.

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Over 600 motorbikes are stolen each week.

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That's a biker's worst nightmare,

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especially if, like Andy Williams,

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your pride and joy is special to you.

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My bike is built originally for racing in the desert,

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for off-road and on road, and it's a gorgeous bike.

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Classic bike.

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I bought it when I was living in Belgium in 1989

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and it's been with me in different countries,

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different places, ever since.

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For me it's not the speed, it's the freedom.

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One afternoon, Andy made a quick trip to the local shopping centre

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in Northampton.

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I'd gone there to go off and just do an errand,

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went off for 15 minutes or so...

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..came back and there it was, gone.

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There was almost like there was a pause in time

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as I kind of worked out exactly where I was,

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if I was in the right place.

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Andy frantically looked for his bike and got a lead from

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the parking attendant.

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He said, "Well, yes, I saw some guys go off on a big bike

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"up through that alley,"

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and as mine was the only big bike that had been there, that was it.

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So after that I knew something bad had happened.

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Straightaway, he called the police.

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I called the 101 number to report it stolen.

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Took the details, and then I went and got the bus and went home.

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I was feeling really dejected. I was kicking myself for being in a rush,

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I should have locked it up and so on and so forth.

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I, frankly, wasn't very optimistic.

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Fearing he'd never see his bike again,

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Andy decided to try and track it down himself.

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He went online,

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putting the word out to the biker community on social media.

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There are a whole load of bikers' networks,

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one or two national ones and another local one.

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Put pictures on, all the details,

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when, where, and my fingers crossed, hoping something would happen.

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And then I went to bed and slept very badly.

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The next morning, he logged back on to see

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if there were any traces of his bike.

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I'd have a look on the phone to see if anybody had responded

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from my various postings, and there had been some,

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people wishing me luck, people saying they had reposted it.

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And then I got this call from Anastassia,

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who it turned out was a member of the Northampton bikers' community.

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And what she'd done, she'd sent me a photograph saying,

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"Is this your bike?"

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And it was.

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Local biker Anastassia was out on a ride,

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waiting at some traffic lights.

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Lucky for Andy, she had a camera fitted to her crash helmet.

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I heard another motorcyclist was on the same level as me,

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so I just turned my head and there was a young lad

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sitting on quite good and expensive motorbike.

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So I was just thinking that a guy without proper gear,

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in a cheap helmet, sitting on this kind of bike

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seems very strange for me.

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So I called her and said, you know, "Where was this?"

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And she said, "In Northampton."

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And she said, "A guy pulled up next to me

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"and he pulled a wheelie."

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I said to myself, this guy's just so arrogant doing this.

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It kind of gave me a lot of hope because I thought, if he's local,

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I can at least take my car out and start looking.

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You know, it suggested to me that it was still around.

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As Andy took to the streets,

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his social media campaign began to pay off.

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I started to get messages on SMS,

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on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger,

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they're coming in from all sorts of places.

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And one lead gave Andy concrete evidence

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his bike was still in the area.

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I got this message with a photograph attached and the SMS message itself

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said, "They're outside my house."

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And the photograph was a picture of my bike with a rider on it,

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just parked outside the house,

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so that was very promising.

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Except that something even stranger happened on the way.

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I parked to check again the map, where it was.

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There I was, checking the map, and the bike drove by me.

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So, once the amazement had worn off, which took a split second,

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I started off. I didn't chase it cos that would have been dangerous,

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but I followed it at a distance.

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The amateur detective was closing in on the thieves

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and trailed them around the area until they turned down a close.

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And there it was. Two riders and I think about six of their mates

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just around the bike, talking.

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So I was parked at the top end of the close and they were parked

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down the bottom and I was watching them.

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Although desperate to retrieve his bike,

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with such a large group to contend with, he knew it wasn't safe

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to confront them and needed to call in the professionals.

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At that point I did call 999 because it was something happening.

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So, I waited.

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Before the police arrived, the thieves made off with the bike.

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I followed them again but it was up to the end of the street

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where I couldn't go any further.

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It's off-road bike, so they had taken it across some grassland

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over to the next road, but I couldn't follow them.

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I went off back towards home and then I got an SMS.

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And the SMS, and I still have it, the SMS said, "We've got your bike.

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"Come and collect it."

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And I thought, "Really?"

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So all of a sudden, from feeling dejected,

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there I was back on a high again.

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It turned out that the wife of one of the members of the community

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saw my bike outside their house.

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They chased them out and into a field.

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They ditched the bike then ran off.

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So there he was with my bike in the middle of a field.

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I was truly amazed. It had been literally 28 hours

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since it had been stolen and there it was, it was back again!

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So there I was back with my love, my bike.

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I was close to ecstatic.

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I mean, the first feeling was, "OK, what have they done to it?"

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but in fact it turned out to be in pretty good shape.

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There were some scratches in the paintwork,

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the clutch had been damaged because they been doing wheelies

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two and three up, but it was good enough to get me home.

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Now reunited with his bike,

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Andy wasn't going to make the same mistake again.

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Always lock up your bike.

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Now I have bought an extra heavy chain, I chain the bike up properly,

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I put a tracker on it so that if anything were to happen now

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I can also locate it.

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Just generally being more careful about looking after it.

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If it were to ever happen again or I heard anybody it happened to,

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I would say, go on social networks, tell them about it.

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One of the best places to go to is your own community, your own people,

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bikers especially.

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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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Print and design businessman Matt's family had told us he just doesn't

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take his home security seriously enough,

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that he's too trusting of people he doesn't know.

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-OK, let's go.

-And they were right,

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as one of the Thief Trackers conned her way into his house...

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I'm desperate for the loo. Any chance I can use your toilet?

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Thank you.

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..and took the keys to his van.

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The coast is clear, so our thief tracker makes his move.

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In seconds, Matt's van has been stolen from outside his house

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and he's totally unaware.

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Lucky for Matt, we're only taking it a short distance away.

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And if this was a real theft,

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his van would be long gone before he discovers it's missing.

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My van's gone!

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Jo!

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It was there, Jo. It's not there now.

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The harsh reality of being a victim of crime is sinking in.

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Before Matt calls the police, we send back our thief tracker.

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-Oh, hiya!

-Hello there.

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I just looked at the T-shirts and I'm missing a size small.

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Missing a size small, Jo.

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My van's just got nicked, hasn't it?

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-Your what?

-My van was there earlier, wasn't it?

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Yeah. It's got nicked?

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I think so.

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Did you see anyone take it?

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How could they have done that?

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-I don't understand how someone's taken your van.

-No, nor do I.

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So you didn't hear anything?

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No, I've been working on my computer out the back.

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You can't hear the front,

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so you're out there tapping away, doing quotes and that, so...

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Has it got anything valuable in it, or is it...?

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-Oh, no!

-Yeah.

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Amazingly, it's still not clicked.

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He's talking to a complete stranger, who he let into his house,

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wondering what's happened to his keys.

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Time to come clean.

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Well, listen.

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Your van is safe.

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And the reason I know your van is safe is because I took it.

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-Right.

-The whole point is to explain to people how quickly

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they could become a victim of crime.

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And it's just kind of a demonstration that you

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let someone in and opened yourselves up...

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No, that's good. No, that's really good, yeah.

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It goes to show, be careful who you invite into your home.

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Matt could have lost his van and its valuable contents.

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We put a tracker inside Matt's van so that he can track it

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on a smartphone to recover it.

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-So, where are we going?

-I think it's pointing down that way.

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It's down there, yeah.

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Did you even think about... I'd come into your house?

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-Did that cross your mind?

-No, it didn't because you came in, said,

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"Oh, can I go to the toilet?" and things like that.

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So it didn't even cross your mind that that could have been...

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No, because you're an innocent-looking young lady

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and you just wanted to go and use the toilet and you nicked my keys.

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-You're a bad girl!

-THEY LAUGH

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You don't think anything of it, but obviously now you do.

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You think, "Oh, my God, what've I done that for?"

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I feel a bit of an idiot, but fair play, you know.

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How much of a pain would it be to not have your van?

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Oh, it would be a major pain, a big annoyance,

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because we use it all day at work, we're in and out of it all day.

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And thieves can strike no matter where you live.

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You don't realise it can happen to you,

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especially being not in a town location.

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Out in the middle of nowhere, you don't think that sort of thing

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will happen to you, but it does, obviously.

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The tracking device takes him on a short walk down the road,

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where he's reunited with his van.

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-I believe these are yours, sir.

-Yeah.

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Good to see you.

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Did you freak out?

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No, I just... I walked about like that, look.

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One hell of a bit of kit in there.

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That's about 1,500 quid in there.

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Sue Hill takes a look at our undercover hit.

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If you've got the front, you've got the confidence as a thief,

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you'll get in anywhere.

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Any chance I can use your toilet?

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This man, I wouldn't think in a million years would ever suspect

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that he'd be a victim of crime.

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However, he was quite happy to let that young woman in.

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She went to the toilet, did a recce of his house

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and then managed to take the van keys.

0:19:180:19:20

He had no idea she had any connection.

0:19:200:19:24

Thank you, that's great.

0:19:240:19:26

Well, this tactic is burglary artifice.

0:19:260:19:29

Basically, someone has purported to be there collecting T-shirts.

0:19:290:19:33

And this is a classic example of how trusting the public are.

0:19:330:19:37

-That's amazing, thank you.

-All right, no worries.

0:19:370:19:39

That's great, thanks so much.

0:19:390:19:40

She's gone there to collect T-shirts,

0:19:430:19:46

so his mind-set is she's a customer. And then to go to the toilet.

0:19:460:19:49

She's young, attractive, she doesn't look like a thief,

0:19:490:19:53

it's not tattooed on her head, and why would she do that?

0:19:530:19:56

It's about trust. We are a very, very trusting society,

0:19:560:20:00

and I think sometimes we just become a bit comfortable

0:20:000:20:03

thinking where we live, "It's a lovely neighbourhood,

0:20:030:20:06

"it doesn't happen to people like us."

0:20:060:20:08

Well, actually, don't let it happen to people like you.

0:20:080:20:12

Just be aware. And this is a real wake-up call to all of us -

0:20:120:20:16

just be on your guard, don't make yourself a victim of crime,

0:20:160:20:19

you don't have to.

0:20:190:20:20

With his van safely back home, Matt agrees he needs to be

0:20:210:20:24

more vigilant and update his security measures.

0:20:240:20:27

You were walking down the street trying to recover the van.

0:20:290:20:31

-I had the tracker, yeah.

-That's useful technology.

0:20:310:20:34

It's very useful.

0:20:340:20:35

To be fair, now I'll go back and speak to Chris, my business partner,

0:20:350:20:38

and we'll probably put them in the vehicles because it's...

0:20:380:20:41

It's just the way forward, isn't it, really, to be fair?

0:20:410:20:44

You've done it as easy as that.

0:20:440:20:45

At least if I come out this time I can hit the button on the iPhone

0:20:450:20:48

or whatever and see where it is.

0:20:480:20:50

The worst thing is about it,

0:20:500:20:52

what a Muppet, because we haven't got trackers.

0:20:520:20:55

I think they're the way forward, to be fair.

0:20:550:20:57

Three and a half miles from the centre of Oxford

0:21:060:21:09

lies the Farmoor Reservoir, where you'll often find George Barker,

0:21:090:21:13

trustee and instructor of the Oxford Sailing Club,

0:21:130:21:16

messing about in boats.

0:21:160:21:17

The club we've got here is a school's sailing centre

0:21:200:21:23

where we take young people and teach them how to sail.

0:21:230:21:27

We are very fortunate. You know, we have a great stretch of water

0:21:270:21:31

and so a lot of different groups come here.

0:21:310:21:35

With around 14 billion litres of water beneath them,

0:21:360:21:39

the welfare of their young sailors is paramount.

0:21:390:21:42

For each group that goes out, there has to be a dedicated safety boat.

0:21:420:21:46

When we haven't got the powerboats,

0:21:460:21:49

none of the young people can go sailing because

0:21:490:21:51

whilst there's wind in the sailing boat, we can't provide

0:21:510:21:54

the safety cover, so it is absolutely crucial

0:21:540:21:56

that we've got operational safety boats.

0:21:560:22:00

Which is difficult to do without an engine, and in the past,

0:22:000:22:03

they've found themselves a target for thieves.

0:22:030:22:06

Unfortunately, we have had the engines stolen

0:22:060:22:09

a couple of times before.

0:22:090:22:10

And motorboat engines don't come cheap.

0:22:100:22:13

The larger ones, typically, to replace them new,

0:22:130:22:16

sort of around £6,000.

0:22:160:22:18

The smaller ones are £2,000, £2,500.

0:22:180:22:22

The sailing club members had to raise about £24,000

0:22:220:22:26

to replace all their engines,

0:22:260:22:28

which, in our sort of budget, is very significant.

0:22:280:22:31

These highly priced engines are desirable to thieves

0:22:310:22:34

who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

0:22:340:22:37

I mean, we've been fortunate. Some of the other sailing clubs

0:22:370:22:40

which have just got the smaller boats have very carefully

0:22:400:22:43

locked their engines to the back of the boat and they've come

0:22:430:22:46

and found that the whole back of the boat has been cut off,

0:22:460:22:49

probably with a chainsaw or whatever,

0:22:490:22:51

which means that the boat is written off as well.

0:22:510:22:54

With such high-value equipment, security at the club is crucial.

0:22:540:22:58

We then thought we needed to take more preventative measures.

0:22:590:23:03

We had some more security cameras put in,

0:23:030:23:06

we also, for the bigger engines on the shore,

0:23:060:23:10

we chain those and padlock those to the ground.

0:23:100:23:14

And also we then had some tracking devices fitted into the engines

0:23:140:23:19

so that we could monitor if they then move at unusual times,

0:23:190:23:23

and that obviously is an indication that something is amiss.

0:23:230:23:26

Early one morning, the trackers were put to the test

0:23:290:23:32

when thieves broke in and stole an outboard engine.

0:23:320:23:35

The sailing club and the reservoir is locked at night,

0:23:380:23:41

so they clearly cut through or ground through those

0:23:410:23:46

and then they've cut the padlocks and the bolts for the engines.

0:23:460:23:52

Marine investigator Simon Lofting

0:23:540:23:56

has seen a trend in this kind of crime.

0:23:560:23:58

Outboard motors in relation to maritime property is a huge,

0:23:590:24:03

huge theft problem at the moment across the whole of Europe.

0:24:030:24:07

The crimewave is put down to organised gangs from abroad.

0:24:070:24:10

Dealing in stolen outboard motors is a very lucrative business.

0:24:100:24:15

Two years ago, we hit 96 million euros of loss

0:24:150:24:19

just in outboard engines.

0:24:190:24:21

It mainly consists of Eastern European crime groups.

0:24:210:24:24

They will travel into the country,

0:24:240:24:26

they will steal outboard engines to order.

0:24:260:24:29

Another team will come in, take the engines and leave the UK

0:24:290:24:32

within a couple of days, so it's extremely well organised.

0:24:320:24:35

The value of the engines is extremely high.

0:24:350:24:37

So if you're looking at let's say, for instance,

0:24:370:24:40

150 horse power outboard engine, you could be paying anything

0:24:400:24:43

between £20,000-25,000 per engine.

0:24:430:24:46

And when you think an outboard engine is only held on

0:24:460:24:48

by four bolts, essentially, you've got yourself a nice

0:24:480:24:51

lump of money in your hand which is equivalent possibly to, you know,

0:24:510:24:54

four or five car thefts.

0:24:540:24:56

Thankfully, when the sailing club's engine was taken,

0:24:570:25:00

the tracker did its job and sent out an alert.

0:25:000:25:03

The tracking company picked up the signal,

0:25:030:25:05

and set about tracing the engine straightaway.

0:25:050:25:08

First thing we do is request the unit to go into alarm.

0:25:090:25:12

We send a text message to it to wake it up to turn its radio beacon on,

0:25:120:25:16

so that we can start tracking,

0:25:160:25:17

and start to work out where the unit's moving to, if it's moving.

0:25:170:25:21

Or if it's stationary, get an idea of where it's located.

0:25:210:25:25

When they have a position fix,

0:25:250:25:26

they can pass on the details to one of their team of expert trackers.

0:25:260:25:30

We've got a network of finders across the UK and Ireland.

0:25:310:25:35

All of them are ex-SAS or police or Army.

0:25:350:25:38

So, they've got the skill sets required to do the kinds of work

0:25:380:25:41

that's involved with tracking.

0:25:410:25:43

And we make sure that they're able to respond straightaway

0:25:440:25:48

when the unit next talks to us.

0:25:480:25:50

The signal from the outboard engine was moving west away from Oxford.

0:25:510:25:55

We tracked it going down the A40 towards Gloucester.

0:25:550:25:59

Once they've got the signal, they can then hone in on that,

0:26:000:26:03

and then get the assistance of the police, if required,

0:26:030:26:06

to make a recovery and any arrests.

0:26:060:26:08

BLEEPING

0:26:080:26:11

We located it to an area in Bishops Cleve,

0:26:110:26:14

sent our finder to the site and he quite quickly picked up a signal,

0:26:140:26:19

and identified a white transit van,

0:26:190:26:21

which had been hired from a rental company.

0:26:210:26:24

The signal was coming from the back of the van.

0:26:240:26:27

The finder wasn't alone.

0:26:270:26:30

Plainclothes police were already there on stakeout

0:26:300:26:32

waiting for the thieves to show up.

0:26:320:26:35

The police instructed us that they wanted us to pull back a bit,

0:26:350:26:38

and to observe the van to see if anyone appeared

0:26:380:26:40

or to see if anything happened with the van.

0:26:400:26:43

They didn't have to wait long.

0:26:450:26:47

After a period of about 20, 30 minutes,

0:26:470:26:50

a car approached and dropped off two white males who were around

0:26:500:26:54

the area of the van for a period of five, ten minutes

0:26:540:26:57

before they got into the van and drove off.

0:26:570:26:59

The police gave chase along with our finder,

0:27:010:27:03

who was in the police car at the time.

0:27:030:27:05

BRAKES SCREECH

0:27:080:27:10

SIRENS WAIL

0:27:100:27:11

And they ended up in a cul-de-sac.

0:27:110:27:14

There was no escape for the thieves.

0:27:140:27:16

The police had them trapped and made two arrests.

0:27:160:27:19

In the back of the van was a haul of 13 outboard engines.

0:27:190:27:23

When we heard that the engines had been found - absolutely amazed,

0:27:270:27:31

cos it had always been assumed that they immediately disappeared abroad.

0:27:310:27:36

And, yes, a fantastic result to get the engines back and then we were

0:27:380:27:42

operating again within a week.

0:27:420:27:44

We could have been out of action, notwithstanding having to spend a

0:27:440:27:48

lot of money, for more than a month or so.

0:27:480:27:51

From our point of view, it was sort of job done.

0:27:510:27:54

We got them back, so we can carry on operating.

0:27:540:27:57

So, that was a big relief.

0:27:570:27:59

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.