Series looking at burglary - its culprits, its victims and the police. In this episode, the remarkable story of how a tracking device led police straight to a stolen computer.
Browse content similar to Episode 11. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Burglaries are on the increase.
It's a real trauma for all of us.
Usually only certain people moving around in their vehicles at night -
that's taxi drivers, emergency services and villains.
Thieves not just targeting the expensive gadgets in our homes...
they're taking our cherished heirlooms too.
Your home is your sanctuary, and nobody should be in your home.
Items impossible to replace.
Why go into someone's house and take away things that are most important -
their security and safety?
It's hard to take.
I don't think they've got any scruples.
But these prized possessions are often recovered.
The police are on our side.
Come and open the door or we're going to put it through.
Police with a warrant, open the door!
Specialist anti-burglary units across the UK...
Come out now or make yourself known!
..working with the latest technology...
If your prints are at a crime scene, we're going to come and talk to you about it and ask why.
..and the good citizens among us.
I did say I'd stop and just make sure the whole family was all right.
To track down the burglars...
..and get us back our stolen goods.
They took so much trouble,
especially when he suddenly said, "Joyce, got the ring! Coming round with it." It was fantastic.
It was really lucky, so it's nice to get them back.
This is Robbed...
Thank you so much.
I feel very good, yeah.
So rewarding, such a happy day.
Coming up on today's programme...
How one man's computer know-how gives police a vital clue
to help track down his stolen laptop.
I was absolutely gobsmacked.
I couldn't believe it, that it showed the location of it right there.
Police in Essex go after the opportunistic thief
who ransacked a couple's home while they slept.
It was a little bit more distressing, really.
We thought they were just in the conservatory,
now that we know they actually got into here,
it's slightly more upsetting if you like, you know?
And a dramatic early morning raid catches a suspected burglar off-guard.
Open the door, it's the police.
Do it straightaway, please, or the door goes in!
-Avid computer-gamer James Stark has lived in the same house
for most of his life.
We moved in here, and I was six months old, with my mum,
and we've been here ever since, really.
James is a computer buff, with a taste for hi-tech gadgets.
I'm quite a big techie person. I've got a lot of games consoles and computers.
I work away at sea, and then when I come home,
I've got a lot of time not doing very much.
In December 2011, five days before Christmas,
James and his girlfriend went out for the evening,
leaving her three-year-old daughter under the caring eye of James' mother.
Later, with James and his girlfriend not yet home and the rest of the family asleep upstairs,
they received some very unwelcome visitors.
Approaching from an alley at the back of the house,
intruders came through the back gate into the garden.
And then, what they did was, they've come down to the gate here,
and this gate up here had a little padlock on it.
They managed to pick the lock and actually unbolt the gate,
come through there and then they've shoulder-barged the door like that.
Inside, the burglars found an elaborate range of expensive, hi-tech gadgets.
They came in here, had a little look round, and then came up the stairs.
This door would've been open, and we had a three-year-old that was asleep in the bed.
So they would have probably seen her asleep, maybe panicked a little bit,
and also, I had my mother in the bed sleeping. Probably heard her as well.
So I think they've run down the stairs, grabbed what they can,
and then run out the back door.
The burglars seem to have lost their nerve and fled the scene.
Neither James' mother nor the toddler woke up during the break-in.
A short time later, the couple got home and went into the lounge.
I sat down and I thought, "Wait a minute, it's a bit cold."
So I went into the kitchen, realised the back door was open.
It wasn't until I came back in that I just happened to look down and realised the laptop had gone.
Then when I looked on the sofa, realised the iPad had gone as well...
It wasn't there.
In their rushed exit, the burglars had grabbed a laptop,
an expensive tablet computer, and several console games.
Thought, you know, that's it, we'd been burgled.
For James, it wasn't the loss of his gadgets that was his first concern.
It was the safety of his loved ones who had been exposed
to a potentially very frightening situation.
Someone had been in the house while my mother and my girlfriend's daughter were sleeping.
That was what was really unnerving.
As for the missing items,
James didn't hold much hope of seeing them again.
I thought there was absolutely no way that we were going to get any of the stuff back at all.
Most upsettingly, James had used the laptop and tablet computer
to store a large amount of irreplaceable family pictures.
All my photos were on there that I had not had chance to back up,
so I'd lost most of those.
James called 999 and reported the break-in.
Grimsby police officers arrived soon after
and immediately began their investigation.
This is the worst kind of crime.
Somebody has actually been into your house... There's nothing worse.
DCI Gerry Darling knew the window of opportunity
to recover these top-of-the-range gadgets was likely to be small.
The main things that are stolen are stuff that can be sold on quickly,
such as PlayStations, Xboxes, games to go with it,
laptops, and the tablets.
With the police still at the house, James set about protecting himself
against identity fraud using his spare computer.
As well as family photos, his stolen computer also contained
a wealth of personal information that criminals could exploit.
My first reaction was to change all my passwords that were saved on the laptop.
It was then he made an incredible discovery.
I realised that there was a feature that was on the tablet that could
track it to show you where the location of it was.
Under the watchful gaze of the police, all James had to do
was log on to the tracking website for his missing tablet.
I went onto the site, and as I clicked on the tracker,
it was amazing when I actually realised that the thing was showing it in a street in Grimsby.
Amazingly, this state-of-the-art tracking technology
showed James' tablet computer was less than 5 miles away.
I was absolutely gobsmacked.
I couldn't believe it, that it showed the location of it right there.
The copper that was round at the time, he said,
no, he'd never seen anything like that before.
He was very shocked at it. He couldn't believe it.
But agonisingly, as James and the police officer continued to track the tablet,
-its signal disappeared.
-The iPad stopped transmitting its location.
I thought, "It's back on the move again."
They'd probably stopped somewhere just to see someone or something and then they'd taken it away again.
After I'd lost the signal that time, then I thought, "No, we're not going to get it back."
After an incredible breakthrough, it appeared the precious tablet
had once again cruelly vanished without a trace.
But the police were determined to make the most of this lead.
So we looked at our criminal intelligence which indicated that there was a strong possibility
a known handler of stolen goods lived in that street.
-The police knew they had to move quickly.
The very same morning the crime was reported,
officers swooped on the house where the signal was coming from.
I got a call from a police officer during the raid itself to say that
he'd found the iPad and also a couple of computer games as well.
Although there was no sign of the laptop,
James was absolutely thrilled to get his tablet computer back,
which he'd thought was gone forever.
His technical know-how and quick-thinking had led the police straight to the unwitting suspect.
Knowing that the tracker was there, I don't think he was aware of it.
Athough he was quite clever with it, he wasn't clever enough. Definitely be kicking himself.
While many hi-tech computer gadgets have built-in tracking features,
DCI Darling recommends another more old-fashioned technique
to help police reunite stolen items with their rightful folders.
They can mark it with UV pens, put their address on or the postcode,
and when we're searching people's houses or we're searching second-hand shops, we can check.
And if we find stolen property, we'll act on it straightaway,
and, hopefully, detect more crimes and lock up more burglars.
It was a great result for both James and Grimsby Police.
You can't beat the feeling of recovering stolen property,
and when it was there and all this technology stuff had worked out,
it was new to a lot of us, but the officers on the scene
were absolutely elated to have recovered it and done a good job.
Still to come, it's a race against time in Northampton
as a special police team go to arrest a man wanted for burglary.
But first, in Essex, it's mid-morning
and PC Paul Wigington of Southend-on-Sea's robbery squad
is responding to a call about a break-in to a house.
The owners, Gary and June Howard,
called the police after making the shocking discovery
that they'd been burgled while they were asleep upstairs.
But I just thought you should probably know there's some tea leaf about the area, wandering about.
No, it's good, cos if they don't get reported to us,
we don't know there is a problem in the area, so it's best to report it.
I came in and I was plumping up my cushions for somebody coming round,
and I turned round, the door was open anyway,
but I thought my husband opened it to let the cats out.
And then when I turned round, I thought, "Where's the TV gone?"
-And it's gone.
-This obviously happened overnight?
Nobody used this room last night, though. Oh, you used it last night?
I was watching the football last night in here.
And I went to bed at two o'clock.
-Has nothing else been taken from the house?
-Doesn't appear to be, no.
-I think we've touched that door...
Having established that it's only the TV that's missing,
PC Wigington has to find out how the thief got in.
But first, he checks out the garden shed to see if anything else might've been taken.
-My husband said that was on the floor, so he's picked that up.
-Was this open, this door, this morning?
-I don't know.
We'll ask him when we go back in, that's fine.
I just looked through and there's...
-They often go and break into the shed to get a tool to open the door.
So they'll come in here and get a screwdriver or hammer or something
and use that to break into your house.
Problem is, if they carry it with them when we stop in the street, they'll get arrested,
-whereas, if they just steal it here...
-..they obviously won't get arrested until after...
The mystery deepens, as no tools have been taken to make a forced entry.
In the UK, one in five break-ins is a result of either doors or windows being left unlocked,
and it's beginning to look like this is what happened here.
I'm quite shocked, but I just feel... I just feel a bit stupid.
Although the conservatory door was left unlocked,
so the burglars didn't even have to break in,
a scene of crime officer, known as a SOCO,
will still examine the conservatory for fingerprints or other clues.
I'll have a look at your door, then have a look on your table area.
-Yeah, I think that's as far as they've got, really.
Perhaps you've disturbed them or something's happened?
-I think they've probably heard us, cos...
A recent survey by Victim Support found that 61% of break-ins happened
when the victims were at home.
For all these people, it's a traumatic event.
I just feel really daft because I made it so easy for them.
And I feel a little bit anxious that, you know, somebody might come back.
That was very easy. If the door hadn't been open,
maybe they would have used something to come in.
I feel a bit pig-sick, really.
The SOCO is focusing efforts to find fingerprints on the table that the TV was on, and the unlocked door.
A lot of smudge marks and then a bit of detail there.
Looks like a bit of palm mark more than anything, which,
you never know, because if they pulled it to cos it's cold
and then just pushed it open, it's possible, isn't it?
I reckon they've been disturbed. Very opportunist, isn't it?
The chances of leaving your door open and it happening, it's...
Unless, perhaps, it gets left open quite a bit, maybe.
Can you see those there? They're quite nice, aren't they?
If you can see good detail in them, and if you can see ridge detail,
then you sort of, from experience, get to know what you're likely
to get results from and what you're not.
If you're at all unsure, then you take it,
but any ridge detail, really, I'm lifting. Especially for burglaries.
When a fingerprint expert looks at that, he'll look at those
and look at all the details in the ridges.
And, depending on how many details he or she can see,
will determine whether he can identify that to an offender.
While the SOCO is still searching for evidence,
PC Wigington is explaining to Gary and June
about a marking system for their possessions.
I'll show you what it is and then I'll explain what it does.
Basically, it's a glue.
That has a code inside it, like DNA, which is registered to your address.
All you have to do is dab a bit of this glue on whatever you want.
If any of that ever goes missing, we can get the code off of it,
-and that'll bring us back to your address.
So that's already coded for our address?
-I'll just fell in these forms and that gets sent away and it all gets linked up with you.
It's simple stuff to use but it is extremely good stuff.
For Gary and June, this break-in has been a wake-up call
about taking care to secure their home.
We have to remember to keep that back door locked.
I just have to make it as like a regular routine to check both doors every night.
The scene of crime officer is taking June and Gary's fingerprints to eliminate them from the crime scene.
PC Wigington is doing door-to-door enquiries with the neighbours.
Hiya, there, nothing to worry about. One of your neighbours,
someone just broke into their conservatory last night.
Just wondered if you saw anyone suspicious hanging about?
Unfortunately, none of the neighbours has seen anything.
That's all right, see you later.
So for PC Wigington, there's possibly only one explanation.
This one appears to be an opportunist one, really.
For some reason, all they've taken is a television.
I don't know if they saw the burglar alarm or the sensors
but they've taken the television and just gone with that.
Once back at Southend police station,
PC Wigington and his team set about their investigations.
But the case has taken a surprising turn.
June and Gary Howard have contacted the police to say they've discovered
that apart from the TV, they've had a laptop, iPod,
and two mobile phones taken as well.
Checking with the owner, Gary, and the mobile phone company,
they found that the phone had been used by the thief.
Obviously, someone that stole it had sent a text message from it.
We ran that number through our computer database
and we know who it belongs to,
someone who's known for handling stolen goods in the Southend area.
Armed with this important knowledge,
Southend Police took out a search warrant on the man's address and entered his house.
Unfortunately, the person we were looking for wasn't at the address,
but we did manage to recover some stolen goods from another burglary
which we're in the process of investigating.
Although other goods were found from other robberies, for June and Gary,
none of their stolen items were found at the address.
Later that day, PC Paul Wigington goes to see Gary and June...
..to break the bad news that their stolen goods have not been found.
I understand you noticed, was it two phones and a laptop?
-Right, two phones, a laptop and... iPod.
My Kindle was there, that Gary bought me for Christmas,
but they didn't take it, fortunately. But they obviously can't read!
Probably didn't realise what it was. It's a bit more distressing, really.
We thought they were just in the conservatory.
Now that we know they actually got into here,
it's slightly more upsetting, if you like, you know?
I'm fighting secondary breast cancer now and, you know,
I don't need this, really.
-And I put a brave face on it, but it is hard work, isn't it?
Trying to stay positive. It's just not on.
It's not that we can afford it and they've got a hard life.
We've all got hard lives. We're all fighting.
We had the lady from Victim Support phone up this morning and she was really nice, you know?
She says, you know, if we need any help to get in touch with her.
And I said, "Well, I think we'll be fine, really."
And I can understand how people can get really upset,
but it's not like they wrecked the place or anything like that.
-We've been really impressed by the whole thing, really.
The way your, you know, your quick response...
We're quite overwhelmed by it all, to be honest.
Burglary is one of the most impactive crimes that you can have,
-so Essex Police do try to give you the best service they possibly can.
-We'll see you later.
-All right, thank you very much.
-I'll keep you updated, anyway.
For Southend Police, the investigation to recover
Gary and June's stolen property will continue.
-Oh, this is how they've left it?
-Oh, my God!
The impact of a burglary can take people long time to get over.
Across the country, police are working day and night
to make sure the burglars pay for their crimes.
Northampton is a large market town with a proud history of success on the rugby pitch.
But just like any densely populated area,
tackling crime is also an ongoing challenge.
In 2009, Northamptonshire Police launched a new offensive
to target serious crime in their area.
Inspector Daemon Johnson explains all.
Operation Guardian is Northamptonshire Police's response
to serious acquisitive crime, or SAC, is the acronym we use.
That's burglary, robbery and auto-crime,
so that's theft of and theft from vehicle.
Been running since 2009, and we've seen great successes in that time.
Operation Guardian puts a high-profile police presence
on the streets of Northampton to take the fight to the thieves...
Police officers with a warrant!
..and reassure law-abiding residents.
We run these events once or twice a month.
I've got three sergeants and 18 constables going out and knocking on doors.
We've also got what we call method of entry officers, so we'll
dynamically enter the premises so we can get in the door really quickly.
That's a lot of resources, and we get some really good results.
It's 7am at Weston Favell police station.
The Operation Guardian team is gearing up for another busy day.
What we're doing this morning is we're going out,
and we're going to arrest a known burglar for burglary.
We know that he is going to be at home, we hope he's going to be home,
and the team is going to go there early doors and make that key arrest.
The previous day, a mobile phone
and quantity of cash was reported stolen from a local house.
Looking for a Samsung Monte Slider, black mobile phone.
The woman who reported the crime also identified the man she believes was responsible.
Sergeant Steve Lang is leading a raid on this suspect's home.
He is to be arrested for a burglary that occurred yesterday.
It's been described that he may, if the front and rear aren't covered,
might try and do a runner.
So the idea is that we are going to go along, get it surrounded, knock on the door and get him in.
As far as I'm concerned, first person to get their hands on him can do the arrest.
OK? Let's go.
The team's destination is a suburban street on the outskirts of Northampton.
He'll be leaving his address roundabout 8.30,
so we need to get there before 8.30 to try and catch him in.
With the suspect likely to be in and unprepared for the police's visit,
early morning is often the best time to raid an address.
The man they plan to arrest is very well-known to the Operation Guardian team.
He has a long criminal history and is on bail for two other burglaries.
-There's a woman outside, go!
Just round the back.
The team needs to make sure the suspect doesn't make a run for it.
Officers race to cover the back of the house as the rest prepare to enter at the front.
There's no problem gaining entry as the suspect's mother is outside.
She confirms he's upstairs.
It's OK, we'll come in. Thank you very much. Need to speak to him.
Yeah, can you get him up for us, please?
-'Load of police here!'
The man's bedroom door appears to be locked.
Open the door, it's the police.
If the officers can't quickly persuade him to open up,
they'll have no choice but to force entry.
Do it straightaway, please, or the door goes in!
The suspect decides opening the door is the more sensible option.
My name's Sergeant Steve Lang, OK?
You're under arrest on suspicion of burglary that occurred yesterday.
-'No, I'm not... I'm not happy.'
-I know you're not happy.
You've just been woken up, haven't you?
I wouldn't be happy either, however...
Just take a hold of him.
-We'll grab him a jumper and then take that with him.
-Have you got one?
-Hello, Candid Camera, how do you do?
Wait a second, your mum's going to get you a jumper, mate.
BLEEP sake, man!
-It should be on the...
The man seems less than happy to have been arrested in his own bed.
I don't know, apparently attempt to burgle or some BLEEP.
Who's that woman, anyway?
He'll be taken back to the station for questioning,
while the team search the house for stolen goods.
OK, take a pew, young man.
The suspect is well-known to Northamptonshire Police.
Having been arrested on many occasions,
the man is no stranger to police custody procedure.
But it seems the offence he's been detained for today isn't straightforward.
It turns out he knows the person who reported him.
And I know what address this is for. It's my friend's house.
-Why would I would rob my friend?
-Put it that way.
It's not right, is it?
Don't rob off your friends or your family. Shouldn't rob altogether.
The man remains adamant he's done nothing wrong.
Still, police must investigate all serious allegations of this type.
House burglary is a horrible crime.
Everybody thinks that their home is their castle,
and the thought that somebody has broken in,
gone through your personal possessions, it's horrible.
I can say that myself because I actually have been burgled, so it is a horrible feeling.
In the case of James' stolen tablet computer, the man tracked down
using the device's signal pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods.
He was sentenced to a 12-week community order,
which included an evening curfew.
The police did a fantastic job. I was very grateful to them.
They dealt with it very, very quickly,
they've raided the house later that morning,
and I was back with the iPad by the next day.
I was very, very pleased. And very, very grateful to them.
We're taking the stuff back as well, returning property to somebody,
because it's full of personal stuff and photos that, you know,
they can't replace, so that feeling of taking it back and also bringing
some burglar into the cells, you can't beat that feeling.
The case of Gary and June Howard's burglary remains unsolved.
So far, their stolen property hasn't been recovered.
All the police can do now is hope for some new information to help them catch the burglars.
The robbery brought home to Gary and June
how important keeping your home secure can really be.
Obviously, we're urging everyone to make sure all their doors
and windows are locked before they go to bed or go out.
They've left their door unlocked, it might be a one-off, but that's all the person needed to get in.
The man arrested on suspicion of stealing a mobile phone
and cash from a house was later released without charge.
However, he has since pleaded guilty to another burglary,
-and was sentenced to two years in prison.
-OK, take a pew, young man.
Operation Guardian has been highly effective in reducing serious crime across Northamptonshire.
It's continuing to get excellent results for the police.
Last year alone, we had a 22.5% reduction,
so that's 2,500 less victims of crime, which is great news,
cos a percentage is a percentage but real people is what matters to us.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In this episode, the remarkable story of how a tracking device led police straight to a stolen computer; a couple wake up to find they have been burgled while they were asleep upstairs; and police catch a suspected burglar unawares, arresting him in his own bed.