Episode 11 Robbed, Raided, Reunited


Episode 11

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.


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Transcript


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Burglaries are on the increase.

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It's a real trauma for all of us.

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Usually only certain people moving around in their vehicles at night -

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that's taxi drivers, emergency services and villains.

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Thieves not just targeting the expensive gadgets in our homes...

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they're taking our cherished heirlooms too.

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Your home is your sanctuary, and nobody should be in your home.

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Items impossible to replace.

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Why go into someone's house and take away things that are most important -

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their security and safety?

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It's hard to take.

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I don't think they've got any scruples.

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But these prized possessions are often recovered.

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Guilty!

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The police are on our side.

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Come and open the door or we're going to put it through.

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Police with a warrant, open the door!

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Specialist anti-burglary units across the UK...

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Come out now or make yourself known!

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..working with the latest technology...

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If your prints are at a crime scene, we're going to come and talk to you about it and ask why.

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..and the good citizens among us.

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I did say I'd stop and just make sure the whole family was all right.

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To track down the burglars...

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..and get us back our stolen goods.

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They took so much trouble,

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especially when he suddenly said, "Joyce, got the ring! Coming round with it." It was fantastic.

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It was really lucky, so it's nice to get them back.

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This is Robbed...

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Raided...

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Reunited.

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Thank you so much.

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I feel very good, yeah.

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So rewarding, such a happy day.

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Coming up on today's programme...

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How one man's computer know-how gives police a vital clue

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to help track down his stolen laptop.

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I was absolutely gobsmacked.

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I couldn't believe it, that it showed the location of it right there.

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SIRENS BLARE

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Police in Essex go after the opportunistic thief

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who ransacked a couple's home while they slept.

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It was a little bit more distressing, really.

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We thought they were just in the conservatory,

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now that we know they actually got into here,

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it's slightly more upsetting if you like, you know?

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And a dramatic early morning raid catches a suspected burglar off-guard.

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Open the door, it's the police.

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Do it straightaway, please, or the door goes in!

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-THEY LAUGH

-Avid computer-gamer James Stark has lived in the same house

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for most of his life.

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We moved in here, and I was six months old, with my mum,

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and we've been here ever since, really.

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James is a computer buff, with a taste for hi-tech gadgets.

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I'm quite a big techie person. I've got a lot of games consoles and computers.

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I work away at sea, and then when I come home,

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I've got a lot of time not doing very much.

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In December 2011, five days before Christmas,

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James and his girlfriend went out for the evening,

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leaving her three-year-old daughter under the caring eye of James' mother.

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Later, with James and his girlfriend not yet home and the rest of the family asleep upstairs,

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they received some very unwelcome visitors.

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Approaching from an alley at the back of the house,

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intruders came through the back gate into the garden.

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And then, what they did was, they've come down to the gate here,

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and this gate up here had a little padlock on it.

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They managed to pick the lock and actually unbolt the gate,

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come through there and then they've shoulder-barged the door like that.

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Inside, the burglars found an elaborate range of expensive, hi-tech gadgets.

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They came in here, had a little look round, and then came up the stairs.

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This door would've been open, and we had a three-year-old that was asleep in the bed.

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So they would have probably seen her asleep, maybe panicked a little bit,

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and also, I had my mother in the bed sleeping. Probably heard her as well.

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So I think they've run down the stairs, grabbed what they can,

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and then run out the back door.

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The burglars seem to have lost their nerve and fled the scene.

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Neither James' mother nor the toddler woke up during the break-in.

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A short time later, the couple got home and went into the lounge.

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I sat down and I thought, "Wait a minute, it's a bit cold."

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So I went into the kitchen, realised the back door was open.

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It wasn't until I came back in that I just happened to look down and realised the laptop had gone.

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Then when I looked on the sofa, realised the iPad had gone as well...

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It wasn't there.

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In their rushed exit, the burglars had grabbed a laptop,

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an expensive tablet computer, and several console games.

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Thought, you know, that's it, we'd been burgled.

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For James, it wasn't the loss of his gadgets that was his first concern.

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It was the safety of his loved ones who had been exposed

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to a potentially very frightening situation.

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Someone had been in the house while my mother and my girlfriend's daughter were sleeping.

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That was what was really unnerving.

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As for the missing items,

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James didn't hold much hope of seeing them again.

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I thought there was absolutely no way that we were going to get any of the stuff back at all.

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Most upsettingly, James had used the laptop and tablet computer

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to store a large amount of irreplaceable family pictures.

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All my photos were on there that I had not had chance to back up,

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so I'd lost most of those.

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James called 999 and reported the break-in.

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Grimsby police officers arrived soon after

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and immediately began their investigation.

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This is the worst kind of crime.

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Somebody has actually been into your house... There's nothing worse.

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DCI Gerry Darling knew the window of opportunity

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to recover these top-of-the-range gadgets was likely to be small.

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The main things that are stolen are stuff that can be sold on quickly,

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such as PlayStations, Xboxes, games to go with it,

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laptops, and the tablets.

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With the police still at the house, James set about protecting himself

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against identity fraud using his spare computer.

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As well as family photos, his stolen computer also contained

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a wealth of personal information that criminals could exploit.

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My first reaction was to change all my passwords that were saved on the laptop.

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It was then he made an incredible discovery.

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I realised that there was a feature that was on the tablet that could

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track it to show you where the location of it was.

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Under the watchful gaze of the police, all James had to do

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was log on to the tracking website for his missing tablet.

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I went onto the site, and as I clicked on the tracker,

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it was amazing when I actually realised that the thing was showing it in a street in Grimsby.

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Amazingly, this state-of-the-art tracking technology

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showed James' tablet computer was less than 5 miles away.

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I was absolutely gobsmacked.

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I couldn't believe it, that it showed the location of it right there.

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The copper that was round at the time, he said,

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no, he'd never seen anything like that before.

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He was very shocked at it. He couldn't believe it.

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But agonisingly, as James and the police officer continued to track the tablet,

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-its signal disappeared.

-The iPad stopped transmitting its location.

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I thought, "It's back on the move again."

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They'd probably stopped somewhere just to see someone or something and then they'd taken it away again.

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After I'd lost the signal that time, then I thought, "No, we're not going to get it back."

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After an incredible breakthrough, it appeared the precious tablet

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had once again cruelly vanished without a trace.

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But the police were determined to make the most of this lead.

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So we looked at our criminal intelligence which indicated that there was a strong possibility

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a known handler of stolen goods lived in that street.

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-SIRENS BLARE

-The police knew they had to move quickly.

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The very same morning the crime was reported,

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officers swooped on the house where the signal was coming from.

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I got a call from a police officer during the raid itself to say that

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he'd found the iPad and also a couple of computer games as well.

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Although there was no sign of the laptop,

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James was absolutely thrilled to get his tablet computer back,

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which he'd thought was gone forever.

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His technical know-how and quick-thinking had led the police straight to the unwitting suspect.

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Knowing that the tracker was there, I don't think he was aware of it.

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Athough he was quite clever with it, he wasn't clever enough. Definitely be kicking himself.

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While many hi-tech computer gadgets have built-in tracking features,

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DCI Darling recommends another more old-fashioned technique

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to help police reunite stolen items with their rightful folders.

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They can mark it with UV pens, put their address on or the postcode,

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and when we're searching people's houses or we're searching second-hand shops, we can check.

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And if we find stolen property, we'll act on it straightaway,

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and, hopefully, detect more crimes and lock up more burglars.

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It was a great result for both James and Grimsby Police.

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You can't beat the feeling of recovering stolen property,

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and when it was there and all this technology stuff had worked out,

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it was new to a lot of us, but the officers on the scene

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were absolutely elated to have recovered it and done a good job.

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Still to come, it's a race against time in Northampton

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as a special police team go to arrest a man wanted for burglary.

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But first, in Essex, it's mid-morning

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and PC Paul Wigington of Southend-on-Sea's robbery squad

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is responding to a call about a break-in to a house.

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The owners, Gary and June Howard,

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called the police after making the shocking discovery

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that they'd been burgled while they were asleep upstairs.

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But I just thought you should probably know there's some tea leaf about the area, wandering about.

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No, it's good, cos if they don't get reported to us,

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we don't know there is a problem in the area, so it's best to report it.

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I came in and I was plumping up my cushions for somebody coming round,

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and I turned round, the door was open anyway,

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but I thought my husband opened it to let the cats out.

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And then when I turned round, I thought, "Where's the TV gone?"

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-And it's gone.

-This obviously happened overnight?

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Nobody used this room last night, though. Oh, you used it last night?

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I was watching the football last night in here.

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And I went to bed at two o'clock.

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-Has nothing else been taken from the house?

-Doesn't appear to be, no.

-No.

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-I think we've touched that door...

-Right.

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Having established that it's only the TV that's missing,

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PC Wigington has to find out how the thief got in.

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But first, he checks out the garden shed to see if anything else might've been taken.

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-My husband said that was on the floor, so he's picked that up.

-Right.

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-Was this open, this door, this morning?

-I don't know.

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We'll ask him when we go back in, that's fine.

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I just looked through and there's...

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-They often go and break into the shed to get a tool to open the door.

-Oh, right.

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So they'll come in here and get a screwdriver or hammer or something

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and use that to break into your house.

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Problem is, if they carry it with them when we stop in the street, they'll get arrested,

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-whereas, if they just steal it here...

-Right, OK.

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-..they obviously won't get arrested until after...

-Right, OK.

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The mystery deepens, as no tools have been taken to make a forced entry.

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In the UK, one in five break-ins is a result of either doors or windows being left unlocked,

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and it's beginning to look like this is what happened here.

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I'm quite shocked, but I just feel... I just feel a bit stupid.

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Although the conservatory door was left unlocked,

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so the burglars didn't even have to break in,

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a scene of crime officer, known as a SOCO,

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will still examine the conservatory for fingerprints or other clues.

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I'll have a look at your door, then have a look on your table area.

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-Yeah, I think that's as far as they've got, really.

-OK.

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Perhaps you've disturbed them or something's happened?

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-I think they've probably heard us, cos...

-Yeah, maybe.

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A recent survey by Victim Support found that 61% of break-ins happened

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when the victims were at home.

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For all these people, it's a traumatic event.

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I just feel really daft because I made it so easy for them.

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And I feel a little bit anxious that, you know, somebody might come back.

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That was very easy. If the door hadn't been open,

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maybe they would have used something to come in.

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I feel a bit pig-sick, really.

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The SOCO is focusing efforts to find fingerprints on the table that the TV was on, and the unlocked door.

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A lot of smudge marks and then a bit of detail there.

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Looks like a bit of palm mark more than anything, which,

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you never know, because if they pulled it to cos it's cold

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and then just pushed it open, it's possible, isn't it?

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I reckon they've been disturbed. Very opportunist, isn't it?

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The chances of leaving your door open and it happening, it's...

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Unless, perhaps, it gets left open quite a bit, maybe.

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Can you see those there? They're quite nice, aren't they?

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If you can see good detail in them, and if you can see ridge detail,

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then you sort of, from experience, get to know what you're likely

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to get results from and what you're not.

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If you're at all unsure, then you take it,

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but any ridge detail, really, I'm lifting. Especially for burglaries.

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When a fingerprint expert looks at that, he'll look at those

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and look at all the details in the ridges.

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And, depending on how many details he or she can see,

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will determine whether he can identify that to an offender.

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While the SOCO is still searching for evidence,

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PC Wigington is explaining to Gary and June

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about a marking system for their possessions.

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I'll show you what it is and then I'll explain what it does.

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Basically, it's a glue.

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That has a code inside it, like DNA, which is registered to your address.

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Oh, OK.

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All you have to do is dab a bit of this glue on whatever you want.

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If any of that ever goes missing, we can get the code off of it,

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-and that'll bring us back to your address.

-Oh, right.

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So that's already coded for our address?

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-I'll just fell in these forms and that gets sent away and it all gets linked up with you.

-Oh, OK.

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It's simple stuff to use but it is extremely good stuff.

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For Gary and June, this break-in has been a wake-up call

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about taking care to secure their home.

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We have to remember to keep that back door locked.

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I just have to make it as like a regular routine to check both doors every night.

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The scene of crime officer is taking June and Gary's fingerprints to eliminate them from the crime scene.

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-OFFICER:

-That's it.

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PC Wigington is doing door-to-door enquiries with the neighbours.

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Hiya, there, nothing to worry about. One of your neighbours,

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someone just broke into their conservatory last night.

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Just wondered if you saw anyone suspicious hanging about?

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Unfortunately, none of the neighbours has seen anything.

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That's all right, see you later.

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So for PC Wigington, there's possibly only one explanation.

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This one appears to be an opportunist one, really.

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For some reason, all they've taken is a television.

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I don't know if they saw the burglar alarm or the sensors

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but they've taken the television and just gone with that.

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Once back at Southend police station,

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PC Wigington and his team set about their investigations.

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But the case has taken a surprising turn.

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June and Gary Howard have contacted the police to say they've discovered

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that apart from the TV, they've had a laptop, iPod,

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and two mobile phones taken as well.

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Checking with the owner, Gary, and the mobile phone company,

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they found that the phone had been used by the thief.

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Obviously, someone that stole it had sent a text message from it.

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We ran that number through our computer database

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and we know who it belongs to,

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someone who's known for handling stolen goods in the Southend area.

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Armed with this important knowledge,

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Southend Police took out a search warrant on the man's address and entered his house.

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Unfortunately, the person we were looking for wasn't at the address,

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but we did manage to recover some stolen goods from another burglary

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which we're in the process of investigating.

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Although other goods were found from other robberies, for June and Gary,

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none of their stolen items were found at the address.

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Later that day, PC Paul Wigington goes to see Gary and June...

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Hello, again.

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..to break the bad news that their stolen goods have not been found.

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I understand you noticed, was it two phones and a laptop?

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-Right, two phones, a laptop and... iPod.

-Oh, iPod.

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My Kindle was there, that Gary bought me for Christmas,

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but they didn't take it, fortunately. But they obviously can't read!

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Probably didn't realise what it was. It's a bit more distressing, really.

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We thought they were just in the conservatory.

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Now that we know they actually got into here,

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it's slightly more upsetting, if you like, you know?

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I'm fighting secondary breast cancer now and, you know,

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I don't need this, really.

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-And I put a brave face on it, but it is hard work, isn't it?

-Hmm.

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Trying to stay positive. It's just not on.

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It's not that we can afford it and they've got a hard life.

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We've all got hard lives. We're all fighting.

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We had the lady from Victim Support phone up this morning and she was really nice, you know?

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She says, you know, if we need any help to get in touch with her.

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And I said, "Well, I think we'll be fine, really."

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And I can understand how people can get really upset,

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but it's not like they wrecked the place or anything like that.

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-We've been really impressed by the whole thing, really.

-Thank you.

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The way your, you know, your quick response...

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We're quite overwhelmed by it all, to be honest.

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Burglary is one of the most impactive crimes that you can have,

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-so Essex Police do try to give you the best service they possibly can.

-Yeah, excellent.

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-We'll see you later.

-All right, thank you very much.

-I'll keep you updated, anyway.

0:18:360:18:40

For Southend Police, the investigation to recover

0:18:400:18:43

Gary and June's stolen property will continue.

0:18:430:18:47

-Oh, this is how they've left it?

-Yeah.

-Oh, my God!

0:18:540:18:57

No-o-o!

0:18:570:18:59

The impact of a burglary can take people long time to get over.

0:18:590:19:03

Across the country, police are working day and night

0:19:030:19:06

to make sure the burglars pay for their crimes.

0:19:060:19:10

Northampton is a large market town with a proud history of success on the rugby pitch.

0:19:140:19:19

But just like any densely populated area,

0:19:190:19:23

tackling crime is also an ongoing challenge.

0:19:230:19:26

In 2009, Northamptonshire Police launched a new offensive

0:19:260:19:30

to target serious crime in their area.

0:19:300:19:33

Inspector Daemon Johnson explains all.

0:19:330:19:36

Operation Guardian is Northamptonshire Police's response

0:19:360:19:39

to serious acquisitive crime, or SAC, is the acronym we use.

0:19:390:19:43

That's burglary, robbery and auto-crime,

0:19:430:19:46

so that's theft of and theft from vehicle.

0:19:460:19:49

Been running since 2009, and we've seen great successes in that time.

0:19:490:19:53

Operation Guardian puts a high-profile police presence

0:19:530:19:56

on the streets of Northampton to take the fight to the thieves...

0:19:560:20:00

Police officers with a warrant!

0:20:000:20:01

..and reassure law-abiding residents.

0:20:010:20:04

We run these events once or twice a month.

0:20:040:20:07

I've got three sergeants and 18 constables going out and knocking on doors.

0:20:070:20:13

We've also got what we call method of entry officers, so we'll

0:20:130:20:16

dynamically enter the premises so we can get in the door really quickly.

0:20:160:20:20

DOOR CLATTERS

0:20:200:20:22

That's a lot of resources, and we get some really good results.

0:20:220:20:26

It's 7am at Weston Favell police station.

0:20:280:20:31

The Operation Guardian team is gearing up for another busy day.

0:20:310:20:35

What we're doing this morning is we're going out,

0:20:350:20:39

and we're going to arrest a known burglar for burglary.

0:20:390:20:43

We know that he is going to be at home, we hope he's going to be home,

0:20:430:20:47

and the team is going to go there early doors and make that key arrest.

0:20:470:20:50

The previous day, a mobile phone

0:20:520:20:54

and quantity of cash was reported stolen from a local house.

0:20:540:20:57

Looking for a Samsung Monte Slider, black mobile phone.

0:20:570:21:01

The woman who reported the crime also identified the man she believes was responsible.

0:21:010:21:07

Sergeant Steve Lang is leading a raid on this suspect's home.

0:21:070:21:10

He is to be arrested for a burglary that occurred yesterday.

0:21:100:21:13

It's been described that he may, if the front and rear aren't covered,

0:21:130:21:17

might try and do a runner.

0:21:170:21:19

So the idea is that we are going to go along, get it surrounded, knock on the door and get him in.

0:21:190:21:23

As far as I'm concerned, first person to get their hands on him can do the arrest.

0:21:230:21:26

OK? Let's go.

0:21:260:21:28

The team's destination is a suburban street on the outskirts of Northampton.

0:21:390:21:44

He'll be leaving his address roundabout 8.30,

0:21:440:21:47

so we need to get there before 8.30 to try and catch him in.

0:21:470:21:50

With the suspect likely to be in and unprepared for the police's visit,

0:21:500:21:55

early morning is often the best time to raid an address.

0:21:550:21:59

The man they plan to arrest is very well-known to the Operation Guardian team.

0:21:590:22:03

He has a long criminal history and is on bail for two other burglaries.

0:22:030:22:07

-There's a woman outside, go!

-Go, outside.

0:22:100:22:14

Just round the back.

0:22:150:22:17

The team needs to make sure the suspect doesn't make a run for it.

0:22:170:22:21

Officers race to cover the back of the house as the rest prepare to enter at the front.

0:22:210:22:27

There's no problem gaining entry as the suspect's mother is outside.

0:22:270:22:31

She confirms he's upstairs.

0:22:310:22:33

It's OK, we'll come in. Thank you very much. Need to speak to him.

0:22:330:22:36

Yeah, can you get him up for us, please?

0:22:360:22:38

-MOTHER:

-'Load of police here!'

-SUSPECT: 'What?!'

0:22:400:22:43

The man's bedroom door appears to be locked.

0:22:430:22:46

Open the door, it's the police.

0:22:460:22:48

If the officers can't quickly persuade him to open up,

0:22:480:22:51

they'll have no choice but to force entry.

0:22:510:22:53

Do it straightaway, please, or the door goes in!

0:22:530:22:55

The suspect decides opening the door is the more sensible option.

0:22:570:23:01

My name's Sergeant Steve Lang, OK?

0:23:010:23:03

You're under arrest on suspicion of burglary that occurred yesterday.

0:23:030:23:07

-'No, I'm not... I'm not happy.'

-I know you're not happy.

0:23:070:23:09

You've just been woken up, haven't you?

0:23:090:23:11

I wouldn't be happy either, however...

0:23:110:23:13

Just take a hold of him.

0:23:140:23:17

-We'll grab him a jumper and then take that with him.

-Yeah.

0:23:170:23:20

-Have you got one?

-Hello, Candid Camera, how do you do?

0:23:200:23:23

Wait a second, your mum's going to get you a jumper, mate.

0:23:230:23:26

BLEEP sake, man!

0:23:260:23:28

BLEEP!

0:23:280:23:30

-It should be on the...

-BLEEP!

0:23:300:23:33

The man seems less than happy to have been arrested in his own bed.

0:23:330:23:37

I don't know, apparently attempt to burgle or some BLEEP.

0:23:370:23:41

Who's that woman, anyway?

0:23:410:23:43

He'll be taken back to the station for questioning,

0:23:430:23:47

while the team search the house for stolen goods.

0:23:470:23:49

OK, take a pew, young man.

0:23:490:23:51

The suspect is well-known to Northamptonshire Police.

0:24:000:24:04

Having been arrested on many occasions,

0:24:060:24:09

the man is no stranger to police custody procedure.

0:24:090:24:12

But it seems the offence he's been detained for today isn't straightforward.

0:24:130:24:18

It turns out he knows the person who reported him.

0:24:190:24:22

And I know what address this is for. It's my friend's house.

0:24:220:24:26

-Why would I would rob my friend?

-Yeah.

-Put it that way.

0:24:260:24:30

It's not right, is it?

0:24:300:24:32

Don't rob off your friends or your family. Shouldn't rob altogether.

0:24:320:24:36

The man remains adamant he's done nothing wrong.

0:24:380:24:40

Still, police must investigate all serious allegations of this type.

0:24:400:24:45

House burglary is a horrible crime.

0:24:450:24:47

Everybody thinks that their home is their castle,

0:24:470:24:50

and the thought that somebody has broken in,

0:24:500:24:53

gone through your personal possessions, it's horrible.

0:24:530:24:56

I can say that myself because I actually have been burgled, so it is a horrible feeling.

0:24:560:25:00

In the case of James' stolen tablet computer, the man tracked down

0:25:040:25:09

using the device's signal pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods.

0:25:090:25:13

He was sentenced to a 12-week community order,

0:25:140:25:17

which included an evening curfew.

0:25:170:25:20

The police did a fantastic job. I was very grateful to them.

0:25:200:25:23

They dealt with it very, very quickly,

0:25:230:25:25

they've raided the house later that morning,

0:25:250:25:27

and I was back with the iPad by the next day.

0:25:270:25:30

I was very, very pleased. And very, very grateful to them.

0:25:300:25:33

We're taking the stuff back as well, returning property to somebody,

0:25:330:25:36

because it's full of personal stuff and photos that, you know,

0:25:360:25:39

they can't replace, so that feeling of taking it back and also bringing

0:25:390:25:42

some burglar into the cells, you can't beat that feeling.

0:25:420:25:46

The case of Gary and June Howard's burglary remains unsolved.

0:25:460:25:51

So far, their stolen property hasn't been recovered.

0:25:510:25:55

All the police can do now is hope for some new information to help them catch the burglars.

0:25:550:26:00

The robbery brought home to Gary and June

0:26:000:26:03

how important keeping your home secure can really be.

0:26:030:26:07

Obviously, we're urging everyone to make sure all their doors

0:26:070:26:09

and windows are locked before they go to bed or go out.

0:26:090:26:12

They've left their door unlocked, it might be a one-off, but that's all the person needed to get in.

0:26:120:26:17

The man arrested on suspicion of stealing a mobile phone

0:26:170:26:21

and cash from a house was later released without charge.

0:26:210:26:25

However, he has since pleaded guilty to another burglary,

0:26:250:26:28

-and was sentenced to two years in prison.

-OK, take a pew, young man.

0:26:280:26:32

Operation Guardian has been highly effective in reducing serious crime across Northamptonshire.

0:26:350:26:41

It's continuing to get excellent results for the police.

0:26:410:26:45

Last year alone, we had a 22.5% reduction,

0:26:450:26:48

so that's 2,500 less victims of crime, which is great news,

0:26:480:26:52

cos a percentage is a percentage but real people is what matters to us.

0:26:520:26:57

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:010:27:04

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.


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