Episode 4 Caught Red Handed


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Episode 4

A bar owner fights back against bag snatchers and pickpockets, and three hapless teenagers burgle a house - unaware that the police are watching their every move.


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Thieves will steal our cars, our valuables,

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just about anything they can get their hands on.

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To cut down on crime and anti-social behaviour,

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the police are using new tactics when the bad guys get caught in the act.

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They're launching covert operations...

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'Keep pretending you're talking on the phone for a bit longer, OK?'

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..and setting clever traps...

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'The laptop he's about to steal is equipped with a tracking device.

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..that deliver unsuspecting crooks right into their hands.

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And there are ways that we the public and local businesses can fight back,

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with some tricks of our own.

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'I wasn't going to sit back and let them do this.

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'I know what you look like and I know who you are.

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'We've caught you and we're sending you down.

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So anyone who's up to no good had better think twice.

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They might just get caught red-handed.

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On Caught Red Handed today,

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in Birmingham, a gang of housebreakers bust into a house

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but the cops are watching and listening to their every move.

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There's four or five cars-worth of police officers outside.

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They're completely surrounded.

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Also today, garage raiders make a run for it,

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unaware that they're being watched.

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If it hadn't been for my television cameras,

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this would have been a crime that would have never been detected.

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And a thief who's extremely pleased with himself after stealing a car.

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LAUGHING

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But the joke's about to be on him.

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In north Birmingham, just gone 11:00pm,

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a door smashes.

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Three hooded figures enter and start poking around.

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This house is in an area where properties have been systematically burgled.

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Tonight, these three have picked the wrong house to break into.

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The district of Erdington was being blighted by burglary.

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Faced with solving this problem was Inspector Dave Keen and his team.

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We were suffering probably two or three burglaries each day

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in what was a particularly tight, small area.

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It's a horrendous crime to suffer.

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I've been a victim of burglary in the past myself

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and it does really shatter that experience for you,

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of feeling safe at home.

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A feeling that Paul and Kelly Tolin know only too well.

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Returning to their home in Rugby after picking up her son, Cole,

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from school, Kelly found they'd been burgled.

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The bedroom had been ransacked, and the whole house,

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the TV in the front room, numerous items had been taken.

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And then it hit me. It was a break-in.

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Everything had just been swiped at and strewn across the floor.

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My jewellery box had been taken, which had wedding jewellery in,

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of sentimental value, my child's first teeth, a lock of hair.

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But the worst of all was the discovery that the robbers had

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stolen their 11-week-old female bulldog puppy, Charley.

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The first thought that entered my head was,

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as we'd only had a puppy two weeks ago,

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I looked through the window, in her crate, and she wasn't there.

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Absolutely distraught.

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To comprehend, to think that someone could take her,

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it absolutely broke me.

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Break-ins like the Tolins were reaching epidemic levels in the suburb of Erdington.

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And we knew we had to do something about it.

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Dave and his fellow officers from the West Midlands Police

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decided to try a different tactic that was working elsewhere.

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The capture house.

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A property that's designed to bait a thief by being left

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apparently unattended and full of highly nickable goodies.

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History tells us that criminals will return

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to the same road more than once.

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The council found Dave and his team an empty house

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in the heart of the problem area.

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They fitted it with an array of small hidden cameras,

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designed to be triggered by any motion.

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Each time that sensor is activated, then it will send a text message.

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So you get a series of text messages and straightaway you know there's something going on.

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The fantastic thing about it, from the phone,

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you're able then to dial direct to the camera,

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so I can see straightaway what's going on in the house.

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And he doesn't have to wait long.

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A few nights later, there's a smash at the door.

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With added sound.

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INDISTINCT CONVERSATION

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-There's £50 here.

-Yeah, there is pounds.

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That's a penny.

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By leaving around various valuables,

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the police hope that the crooks are distracted long enough

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for them to reach the house in time.

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When the alert comes in, it pings it to me at home.

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I obviously carry the phone with me, as do other people.

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It is really odd to be watching a crime in progress,

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in the comfort of your own home.

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Believing they've found a teenage thieves' treasure trove...

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..this trio are in no hurry to leave.

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'What's nice is they've got no idea we're on our way.

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'Straight to the top of the stairs,

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'just to see what else there is to steal.

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Blissfully unaware that by now police units are silently

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assembling outside, the thieves methodically search every corner.

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This camera's so well disguised,

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you'll never know that you're in a police house.

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Whatever they were going to spend the money on tomorrow,

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their plans are about to change.

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They're leaving now, out the front door,

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thinking they've got away with it.

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And right into the hands of the police. Lads, you're nicked.

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Caught with their hands full,

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the three teenagers were found guilty of burglary.

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As they were juveniles, they were each given suspended jail sentences.

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He isn't getting away with it. Because we know who they are.

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They're on our radar. In fact, you know, they may be out and about

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but they're not free, really, they're being monitored by us.

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And word got around.

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After the capture house was successful, we had no crimes

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reported in that particular area of any nature for two weeks.

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It's a huge impact and you can see the message that it sends out.

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It puts the fear back onto the criminal rather than on the householder or the victim.

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And remember Charley, the Tolin family's stolen puppy?

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Well, the family, like the police,

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harnessed the power of modern technology.

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They launched a huge "Find Charley" crusade.

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We had a Facebook campaign,

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And then my husband did a Twitter campaign.

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We were really successful, actually,

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and had thousands and thousands of people following us and helping us.

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And it worked.

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Someone had spotted her outside a school in Birmingham.

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The police had been contacted and they scanned her,

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because she is micro-chipped, and she came up as stolen.

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My breeder's details and my name are on the chip for Charley.

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I then went to the police station and I got her back.

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Now it's not just capture houses the police use, as in Erdington.

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On Caught Red Handed, we're seeing bait

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and capture operations of all sorts.

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Nowadays police are using bait bikes, capture laptops,

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even bait cable drums.

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It's a new trend and it's catching a lot of criminals.

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But most importantly, we are there to put the fear

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of being caught in their mind.

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Can they be sure the car they're breaking into is not a bait car

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and the bicycle they're stealing is not a bait bicycle?

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It's opportunity for us to gain evidence

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to be able to bring the offenders to justice.

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I can't put a price on the value of bait operations.

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And it's not just the police using a bit of cleverness to catch criminals.

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It's people like you and me too.

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A sleepy village in Suffolk.

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Population, around 600. Crime - virtually non-existent.

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Unless you live just outside on the main road, that is.

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Paulo and John's home has received so much criminal attention,

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that they could be forgiven for thinking it was listed in some sort of thieves' travel guide.

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To protect themselves, they've taken some drastic measures

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and ended up capturing these burglars in the act.

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This has been an ongoing problem.

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About ten years ago, somebody had broken into the house through a

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rear window and stolen all my cheque books and credit cards, et cetera.

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Some years later, when we were on holiday, the garage was broken into

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and all my garden equipment and machinery was stolen.

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And then there was Paulo's motor.

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That went missing while he was inside playing the piano.

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I was practising and John says, "Where is your car?"

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I said, "What do you mean? It's parked in the usual place."

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He said, "No, it's not." Ha-ha!

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So I came outside and my car had vanished!

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And they came in, they drove their own car in here,

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they hot-wired my car, drove it off,

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and then they used it in an armed robbery that same night.

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And they were armed!

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If that wasn't enough, in between these events, there was also

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a steady stream of unsavoury characters attracted to the premises.

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At various times, we found people in the garage

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or walking around the back.

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They just seemed to wander in and poke around at will.

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I felt a bit threatened, I think. So I wasn't very happy.

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So I decided to do something about it, you know,

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the least you can do is take a photograph of them.

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John and Paulo felt like they needed an extra pair of eyes

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so they bought some.

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Scouring the second-hand surveillance market found them

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a decent set of cameras.

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This was quite an interesting project for us

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because I'm a plumbing and heating engineer myself

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and I often deal with electrical things, and Paulo, my partner,

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he's very good with software and computer systems.

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We decided to have three cameras to begin with.

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To make installation easier,

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the cameras wirelessly connect to a computer.

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If anyone moves,

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then it gets recorded onto the hard drive of the computer.

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Though nature rarely sits still.

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You have trees moving in the wind and things like that,

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so you have to blank. It's blanked. So the movement won't get recorded.

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But if anyone walks here, it will get recorded.

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Just a few months after this system is installed, it proves its worth.

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John and Paulo had popped into town.

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We'd only been gone for 40 minutes.

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When we came back, I went to get something from the garage.

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I noticed as I arrived in here that the planer down there

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was on the floor,

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and it shouldn't be, because it lives in the shelves over there.

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So I went to pick it up like this, to put it back on the shelf,

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and that's when I noticed all the cables, which I normally keep here,

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were all completely missing and these shelves were empty.

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And the motion detection recorder shows exactly what's been

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happening in their absence.

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A truck parks up at the bottom of the drive

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and a man walks up to the house to see if anybody's in.

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On return, the open door to the shed catches his eye.

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After a quick inspection, he calls his mate over and so begins

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a robbers' relay, as the pair quickly grab as much as they can.

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I thought, that should be on our cameras,

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but I never expected it would be, somehow,

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until we played it back, and then all these empty scenes were full

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of these two people, taking all the stuff.

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-It's quite exciting, wasn't it?!

-It was kind of surreal, really.

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But it was horrible as well, people invading your privacy like that.

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Even as he watched his plumbing supplies

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being plundered, there was a sense of satisfaction for John.

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I remember feeling rather pleased with myself.

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I thought, yes, you people, in the past you've come here

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and broken into my house, you've stolen my things

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and you've had the privilege of anonymity, which you didn't deserve.

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This time, you don't have that because I know what you

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look like and they know who you are, or I will eventually.

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They contact the local police and hand over this footage.

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The pictures circulate to forces nationwide.

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Eventually, this man is identified by Essex police and charged with theft.

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He was given a 120-hour community order

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and made to pay £300 compensation to John.

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The other guy remains at large, so if he you see him,

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don't let him near your garage!

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If it hadn't been for my television cameras,

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this would have been a crime that would never have been detected.

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Now that the cameras are in place, I feel much more secure.

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I know that if anything happens that I'm not aware of at the time,

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it will be there on record.

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And the robbery isn't the only transgression

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caught on the motion picture cameras.

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There's a cat that likes my cat and he comes every night.

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They meet up! Ha-ha!

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They have a cat party!

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Caught in the act, eh?

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Still to come on today's Caught Red Handed,

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the battle against the bag snatchers.

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You can see the bag over the foot,

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lifting it up, she's hiding it behind that big bag.

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A fed-up bar owner comes up with a high-tech solution.

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And this rose rustler gets busted by an angry gardener.

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Jon the plumber said how much he enjoyed catching his garage thief

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and there is a certain pleasure in seeing a rat get caught in a trap,

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like this next chap.

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In America, this bloke is stealing a car,

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and he's happy about it.

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# Stick 'em up, punk, it's the Fun-loving Criminals. #

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LAUGHTER

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Very happy.

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But what this laughing criminal doesn't realise is that he's stolen a police bait car.

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And while he's busy struggling to work the CD player,

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police patrols are closing in on his position.

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A few minutes on and it's game over.

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# Stick 'em up, punk, it's the Fun-loving Criminals. #

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And the police have the last laugh.

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We see a lot of CCTV cameras around nowadays,

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guarding people's homes and gardens.

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Altogether on the streets,

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there are over a million cameras with their eyes wide open.

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It's a trade-off, isn't it, with CCTV?

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There's obviously a big civil liberties debate,

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people say, "We're being filmed everywhere."

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And the sort of payback from that is if you DO get attacked

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or your bag gets stolen or something gets damaged,

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the system's there to solve the crime.

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I think if people see that the CCTV is serving a purpose -

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it's making them safer, it's helping catch criminals,

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then they're far more comfortable about it so think it's right that it's used for that.

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The CCTV camera here catches someone stealing around £1,000 worth of goodies.

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You probably wouldn't have noticed, so let's see it one more time.

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And this time we'll highlight the thief.

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We've just watched him take a woman's bag from the back of her chair.

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We'll see what happens here later.

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In Charing Cross, one man is harnessing the power of the internet

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to fight back against this kind of crime.

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Simon Gordon has invented a website designed to help the police

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and public stop thieves running amok in central London.

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You've heard of Facebook, well this is Facewatch,

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a gallery of bag snatchers and pickpockets.

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A sort of anti-social networking if you will.

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Simon needed something to deal with the criminals that were the scourge of his family's bar.

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It's literally straight out of the Dickensian era.

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It's candles, old posters, everything's original.

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But a Dickensian setting brings with it another very Dickensian problem.

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Thieves.

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And in these conditions they don't need to be Artful.

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Ever since we've been first open, there have been people coming in,

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taking advantage of the darkness,

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taking advantage of the fact that it's full up.

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And they'll swipe things, as they always have done.

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Such as this pair of pickpockets.

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They pick a spot next to an unsuspecting woman, who has her back to them.

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They pretend to chat amongst themselves while one helps

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himself to the contents of her bag.

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He first takes her phone, even checks the make of it!

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And then passes it across to his accomplice under the table.

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This sort of thing was rife when Simon and his manager, Gerard,

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took over the full running of the bar in 2003.

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At the beginning, the first three years it was very bad.

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Every year it was going up and going up.

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We had around five, six thefts a week.

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My aim is if people down here, this should feel safe.

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You have a couple of glasses of wine

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and forget that you've got your bag on the back of your chair,

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but that shouldn't matter.

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I remember this lovely young lady who was working, after school,

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you know, it was her first job, her first pay, cash,

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and unfortunately it was gone. Someone stole it.

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And she was in tears, she really, she really broke my heart.

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It's not just the money.

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Nowadays, with the amount of things people carry in their bag,

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it can feel as though your whole world has been taken from you.

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As Gemma here found out, when, having a drink with a friend,

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her bag was lifted off the back of her chair.

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Straightaway, that feeling hit me,

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that I couldn't get home, because my Oyster card had gone,

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I couldn't get in because my keys are gone,

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I couldn't pay for a travel card to get home because my wallet had gone.

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My iPad was gone so I couldn't communicate with anybody.

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It's not only stealing a bag, it's stealing part of yourself, to be honest.

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The problem was that too many of these bag thieves

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were remaining on the streets.

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They've been unafraid of the old CCTV systems

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and so have felt free to steal from bars

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when they should have been behind them.

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I suddenly realised that whenever we reported a crime to the police,

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they used to have to come down and pick up a disk and take it away and go through all this footage.

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And there was a lot of footage, and most of it was dark and grainy.

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Faced with the task of watching it all,

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Detective Chief Inspector Mike Neville and his fellow officers

0:21:100:21:14

at New Scotland Yard.

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Can you imagine trying to sift through an hour of footage

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trying to find, say, a bag theft? If somebody's attacked, it's very obvious when it happened

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but when somebody does a sneaky thing like a handbag theft or

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a laptop theft on a phone theft,

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often you can't see when it happened.

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So it would take a lot of time to do that,

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a lot of police time to do that.

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Nothing was getting solved so I thought, actually,

0:21:340:21:36

as a business we should be trying to do more to help the police.

0:21:360:21:40

So Simon invented this website.

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You log in to it and you report the crime.

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You have to be a business, that's the only thing.

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It produces an automatic witness statement and then you can

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upload CCTV and you press the button, it goes to the police.

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And every time the police do anything,

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you get an e-mail back telling you what's going on,

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so it's really good for victims and for businesses

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because you know what's happening with your crime.

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Simon's non-profit website allows businesses to recognise

0:22:020:22:06

suspected thieves as they go from venue to venue.

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To help this, he wanted improved image quality,

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so he fitted his bar with a state of the art surveillance system,

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manned by Head of Security, Bryan Speak, and his team.

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The new megapixel cameras, we can actually zoom in

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and capture quite a lot of detail,

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we can zoom right in and see what they're doing with their hands.

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The cameras are really clear.

0:22:300:22:32

If a crime is reported by a customer and is missed at the time,

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the team spool back to find the exact moment the theft took place,

0:22:350:22:40

and then put the crucial footage up on the website

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for the police to investigate.

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By sharing the images with other venues,

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they can also be on their guard and the net closes in on the crook.

0:22:480:22:52

The same woman did three crimes in Gordon's Wine Bar.

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This one she did very clearly shows how easy it is to be fooled,

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to have your stuff taken.

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You just wouldn't be thinking of what's going on.

0:23:030:23:06

So this lady, there's a lady sitting here,

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and the thief is standing behind her,

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and if you watch her right foot, you can see the bag over the foot.

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She's lifting it up, and again,

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she's hiding it behind that big bag. So this is how they always do it.

0:23:220:23:26

It's audacious, and even the thief blows her cheeks out as she walks away.

0:23:290:23:33

But her relief is short-lived.

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She was caught and jailed for 12 months.

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And as for the pair of pickpockets we saw earlier,

0:23:410:23:45

before Simon's new system they probably would have got away

0:23:450:23:48

with stealing a woman's possessions.

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But this time they're going nowhere.

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A sharp-eyed camera operator sees the whole thing

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and they're intercepted at the stairs by a member of the security team.

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The customer's phone, wallet and mp3 player are found and returned to her.

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And for these two? A wait in the back room

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until the police come to arrest them.

0:24:070:24:09

Gemma's bag snatcher got away on the night. But it was caught on camera.

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It was this footage you saw earlier.

0:24:160:24:19

Put up online, it allowed Gemma and the police

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to see the crime against her.

0:24:220:24:25

This is Gemma. This is her bag. keep your eye on it.

0:24:250:24:29

He's walked by me to look and tried to take it the minute I sat down

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but didn't feel that he could get away with it,

0:24:360:24:38

and then he walks straight back and I'm more engaged in conversation,

0:24:380:24:43

and he just flicks it off my chair.

0:24:430:24:45

Literally within seconds of me sitting down.

0:24:450:24:48

He was obviously very good at it because he was very well-dressed.

0:24:480:24:51

He made it look effortless.

0:24:510:24:54

And he thought he'd got away with the crime,

0:24:540:24:57

but this bag snatcher's face is on Simon's website.

0:24:570:25:02

So when he comes back for more, the staff know exactly who he is.

0:25:020:25:06

He came in, it was just a case of going out and detaining him.

0:25:060:25:10

He was then arrested by the police.

0:25:100:25:12

He tried to deny it, but he's obviously been proven guilty

0:25:120:25:15

because he's now in prison for three months.

0:25:150:25:18

It's just good to think that the system works.

0:25:180:25:21

From start to finish, in my case.

0:25:210:25:23

I know I didn't get my things back,

0:25:230:25:26

but it's good to know that the people cared enough

0:25:260:25:28

to see it through right to the end. And that he got charged.

0:25:280:25:32

In the war against thieves,

0:25:330:25:35

Simon's website is proving to be an invaluable weapon,

0:25:350:25:39

identifying them quickly.

0:25:390:25:41

What would have taken weeks, can take hours.

0:25:410:25:44

It's a real deterrent. It reduced crime in Gordon's very dramatically.

0:25:450:25:49

We have had a number of arrests.

0:25:490:25:52

Lots of criminals, when they see themselves on CCTV, plead guilty.

0:25:520:25:55

Now that saves a lot of money.

0:25:550:25:56

Most importantly, it often stops the victim having to go to court

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and give evidence. It saves them that additional trauma as well.

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It's about helping people to stop crime from happening

0:26:040:26:07

in the first place. I really believe that if you can stop people enough,

0:26:070:26:12

eventually they'll give up. I hope that'll happen.

0:26:120:26:16

We've been trying for too long using the old methods

0:26:160:26:19

and I think we can change things.

0:26:190:26:21

And finally, in Wrexham, North Wales,

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roses are red, violets are blue, er, I can't be bothered to buy me own,

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so I'm going to steal yours off you.

0:26:370:26:39

A proud gardener catches this petal pincher on CCTV after noticing

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that his front garden mysteriously became sparser overnight.

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And the more he checks his footage, the more rose rustlers he finds,

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even in broad daylight.

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Most women like to receive flowers,

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but this lady takes the direct approach,

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barely taking time out from her phone conversation

0:27:020:27:05

to massacre someone else's plants.

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"Ooh, I like the look of this one as well. Don't mind if I do."

0:27:080:27:11

But this garden's owner DID mind.

0:27:110:27:14

Not wanting to resort to wrapping his bouquets in barbed wire,

0:27:150:27:19

he decides to publicly shame this pre-meditated action,

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putting the video online.

0:27:230:27:25

Over 20,000 hits later,

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the local community recognises the man and dobs him in to the gardener.

0:27:280:27:33

But he'd had his fun and needed no more retribution.

0:27:330:27:37

For the culprit, however, life was less rosy.

0:27:370:27:40

We're told he's changed his appearance to avoid being recognised

0:27:400:27:44

as the Wrexham rose robber!

0:27:440:27:46

Let's hope he's changed his ways too!

0:27:460:27:48

That's it for today. Join us next time

0:27:520:27:54

when the police and the public catch more criminals red-handed.

0:27:540:27:57

Dom Littlewood looks at clever new methods that the police and the public are using to catch crooks red handed. A bar owner fights back against bag snatchers and pickpockets, and three hapless teenagers burgle a house - unaware that the police are watching their every move.