Posts Tagged 'break in'

She’s a waterfall…

1

What do the burglary team do all day? Sometimes we fight foes on top of waterfalls. We do other stuff too though…

What do the burglary team at Local CID do all day?

The obvious answer would be that we look for clues with our magnifying glasses, try on deerstalkers and place pins on large wall maps.

To be fair, this is pretty accurate.

Without magnifying glasses, we’d miss the vital piece in the jigsaw that cracks the case.

No deerstalkers and nobody would know we’re from CID, no randomly-placed map pins and our office wouldn’t look professional.

Whilst it is pretty accurate, the role does involve more than just fighting nemesis at the top of the Reichenbach Falls*.

For the burglary team, one of the first things we do in the morning is to check overnight crime to see what’s been happening on our beats.

Any house burglaries that we find, we look into to see what areas they’re in, how they’ve been committed etc and then will give the victim a call for an update.

We’ll chase up any forensic results, check out the intelligence using our clever computers and follow up any oustanding enquiries with witnesses and CCTV.

One of the most important things we’ll then do is to liaise with a magpie.

This isn’t the result of something funny being slipped into our pipes, rather the ‘magie’ officer is a specialist who links in with the pawn shops and helps track down stolen property.

Aside snooping around the second hand market, the magpie officer also makes enquiries with the National Mobile Property Register – the ‘PNC of property’ – to check that outstanding items are correctly listed.

If there’s sufficient evidence, we speak to the Local Priority Team and Offender Managers who can lend assistance with arrests, we then conduct property searches to help locate evidence before interview suspects at the station.

If all goes to plan following an arrest then hopefully we’re able to charge and remand (keep in the cells) our suspect and dispatch him or her to court the following day.

Whilst this is a flavour of the sort of work the burglary team does, it’s important to point out that by following some simple crime prevention advice, many of the burglaries that come to us could be avoided.

You’re likely to pick up some handy tips on our Safer Homes website on how to keep your home secure, equally important though is to register all of your goods on the property register.

Doing so is quick, easy and will cost you no pennies whatsoever.

Simply log onto www.immobilise.com and start listing your valuables – doing so makes it much, much easier for us to identify them so please make it the next website you visit! 

* Realistically this only happens once or twice a month.

How low are you willing to go?

Stolen in a recent charity shop burglary, can you help with enquiries?

Stolen in a recent charity shop burglary, can you help with enquiries?

The below press release was issued by our Corporate Communications department recently following a burglary at the St Giles Hospice Shop in Walsall Town Centre, I’m republishing it here too in case anyone missed it.

I’m in charge of the case and with the victim being a cancer charity, I’m obviously keen to do all I can to find out who was responsible.

Please feel free to forward on this appeal and as per the below, if you have any information that may help then please let us know or pass it on anonymously via Crimestoppers.

Walsall Town Centre Charity Shop Targeted

Walsall Police are appealing for information following a burglary at a charity shop in the town centre.

Thieves smashed their way into the St Giles Hospice Shop on the High Street at some point between Saturday 22 March at 3:40pm and Monday 24 March at 8:20am.

A grey Navman iCN320 sat-nav was stolen from a display cabinet before the thieves made good their escape.

PC Stanley, from the Walsall Investigation Team, said: “This was a particularly cruel break in with the victim being a charity shop run by volunteers.

“The St Giles Shop raises money for people suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses, we are keen to catch and prosecute the persons responsible as soon as possible.

“We urge people in the local area to think if they have been offered such an item for sale in recent and if they may have information to pass to the investigation team.”

Anyone with information is urged to call PC Stanley on 101 or information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

You’re the devil in disguise…

There’s been a slight rise in ‘distraction’ burglaries in Streetly and Aldridge – beware!

To write this blog, I’ve had to battle with several competing distractions. They were in no particular order as follows -

  • Looking out window to see if there were any interesting shaped clouds to be spotted
  • Watching some videos of geeks completing ‘speed runs’ of old video games (‘Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ to be specific)
  • Browsing the Krispy Kreme doughnuts website

All in all, none of these distraction actually helped me write the blog. You could say they hindered me.

Anyhoo, the reason that I’m now writing this blog rather than searching YouTube for a ‘perfect’ video combining cats AND bacon is that I need to bring to your attention a slight rise in ‘distraction’ type of burglaries that we’ve experienced recently in the Streetly and Aldridge areas of Walsall.

The exact method varies but often it’ll be some heartless miscreant knocking on an elderly person’s door claiming to be offering roofing insulation, gardening work or maybe even stating that they’re from the police.

Having gained entry, they’ll then use the opportunity to take what they can before making a swift exit with some of their victim’s property.

As I’ve written about lately, a recent variant of this type of crime is the ‘Courier Fraud’ scam whereby the victim is phoned by someone who obtains their bank details and then sends round a courier to pick up their bank card claiming it’s required as evidence.

These crimes are particularly cruel and so I’d ask that everyone remain vigilant for suspicious persons in their neighbourhoods and keep an eye on elderly neighbours in case they receive unwanted visitors.

Please spread the word to those folk not yet wired into the internet and remember, if you do notice something or someone that happens to set off you ‘there’s something about this that isn’t right’ alarm, please contact us straight away.

You can phone us on 101 or in an emergency, dial 999.

Gather as much detail as you can safely do – descriptions of people, vehicles, registration plates etc – and let us know so that we can swoop in and investigate before another local person falls victim to the scammers.

Fight crime by PUNCHING IT ON THE NOSE at the following websites:

I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree…


Dear Santa,

This year I feel I have been exceptionally well behaved. I have arrested lots of bad guys, I have kept my pocket note book up to date and I’ve even done my best to stick to my ‘fewer doughnuts’ resolution.

As such I hope you don’t mind me sending you a little Christmas list, seeing as I should be on the good list and all?

I’m not asking for a Dreamcast, a Furby or whatever else it is that the kids are wanting this year – what I’m actually asking for is you to do something for me.

I know that each year you zoom around the planet at 1,800 miles per second, diving into people’s homes and distributing presents to all the (good) boys and girls.

What I’d really, really like is that whilst you’re disregarding the flying sleigh speed limits, you take into account the following few requests and help ensure that you make this my jolliest Christmas ever.

Here’s what I’m asking that you do:

  • I know that to make things a little easier on yourself you sometimes leave presents out a little early. Do you think you could put them somewhere out of sight until the big day, just so that no naughty elves walk past and spot them through the window?
  • When you’re nosing around people’s houses for mince pies, carrots and brandy, please check that people’s doors and windows are closed and locked
  • If when you’re up on the rooftops you happen to spot suspicious folk loitering around below, could you give the police a call on 101 and let us know so we can check it out?
  • Should you have time between mince pies, maybe you check out our 12 Days of Christmas website and find out more about festive crime prevention?

Thank you!

(PC) Richard

You should have known by now you were on my list…

Want to increase the chances of your stolen property finding its way back to you if recovered? Get it registered on the Nation Mobile Property Register for free!

The other day I was sat in the Investigation Team office with a serious look on my face as I was busy with some very serious police work. I would have continued with said serious work were it not for two response officers wondering in with a PlayStation 3 under their arms.

What was happening? Why weren’t they out fighting crimes?

Well, I think several on my team were hopeful there was about to be an impromptu FIFA tournament – teams were picked and the location of the nearest TV was discussed.

Luckily for me this was not to be the case (my FIFA skills extend no further than repeatedly pressing the ‘hoof the ball into the stands’ button), rather the console they thought might be stolen and they wanted someone to check it to confirm it as being ‘hot’ property.

Breaking my concentration from a particularly engaging prosecution file, I volunteered to help out as I am one of the many officers with access to the National Mobile Property Register (NMPR).

The National what you ask?

Well, as I’ve referenced previously, the NMPR is a big old archive of property that we bobbies can browse when we recover items to see if they’ve been nicked.

By using the totally free Immobilise website, you can build up a ‘vault’ of all your valuables with their serial numbers and even photographs which is then added to the NMPR. We then use this incredibly useful system to help reunite stolen goods with their rightful owners.

Having logged on, we took down the console’s serial number and I tapped it into the NMPR to see what results we got.

Internet cogs turned, the computer made a few grinding noises and half a second later we got a bright red notification linked to the serial number confirming that the PlayStation was indeed stolen property.

This wasn’t all we got though, we also got crime details relating to the original theft meaning we were able to contact the police force that had dealt and arrange for the item to be returned to its rightful owner.

To work as it did in this example, property needs to be registered in the first place so without hesitation I’d encourage you to go and do the following:

  1. Make a note of the serial numbers on all your various gadgets and gizmos
  2. Take photos of jewellery and other keepsakes that might lack serial numbers
  3. Get yourself over to www.immobilse.com and register everything on the National Mobile Property Register for free

So there we have it, three simple steps that you can take here and now to drastically increase the chances of getting your wares back if they fall into the wrong hands.

There was no FIFA tournament for either us or the criminals as arrangements were made to get the console returned to its rightful owner, all because that owner had taken the very sensible step of registering it in advance.

Behind That Locked Door…

Everyone knows that by exploiting a weak point in the Death Star’s design, the Rebel Alliance blew it up. Did you know that your household locks may have a similar weakness that criminals could exploit? (Image from mharrsch)


For reasons known only to Darth Vader, when the engineers were designing the Death Star they built in a vent that should someone happen to shoot down, the entire space station would instantly be rendered inoperable by virtue of it being scattered across the galaxy.

This wasn’t a good idea but then weak points, deliberate or otherwise, rarely are which raises the question of why they exist in the first place.

Even though the whole Death Star thing happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, weak points are still things that crop up from time to time and at the moment in the world of home security, are causing a few issues in relation to a type of lock commonly used on uPVC doors.

The ‘Euro cylinder’ is a type of lock that’s often found on plastic doors and like the Death Star, unfortunately has a weak point that criminals with tools a lot less sophisticated than proton torpedoes have been able to exploit.

The method, known as lock snapping, involves using a tool to apply force to the lock cylinder which then responds by snapping at its weakest point. It takes minutes to do and and allows the bad guy to simply open the door and step inside.

In Yorkshire the lock snapping method has been a factor in a quarter of their burglaries and unfortunately, criminals in other areas are getting wise to this simply way of gaining access to people’s homes.

What can you do to secure your own Death Star then?

First of all you need to identify whether your locks are the type that are vulnerable to being snapped.

It’s hard to tell just from looking at them which is Euro cylinder type although this photo shows what they generally look like. Better, ask a locksmith for advice as to which locks you have.

If you have Secured by Design standard doors (fitted after 2010) then you should be okay, older locks though may need to be checked.

Having identified any Euro cylinder style locks, you then want to consider upgrading the barrels to break secure models. You need not replace the entire door, just the mechanism which should be a fairly quick job for a professional.

Combined with following the other sensible crime prevention tips I have offered on this blog over the years (here, there, here, here, here and there too), as well as our Safer Homes advice, you should considerably lower the chances that you’ll return home to discover a break in.

The weak point in the Death Star is generally considered a good thing, depending on whose side you’re on. The same can’t be said about your locks though so go check them before a criminal does it for you!

I don’t think I ever seen so many headlights…

Seen the helicopter up overhead and five police cars dashing off in the same direction? A sign of a huge incident perhaps? Not necessarily, how we allocate resources to jobs depends on a variety of factors as you’ll see below.

Fairly frequently I receive the following tweet from a curious member of the public – ‘There are six police cars blocking off such and such street and I’ve just seen the helicopter drop a police dog down somebody’s chimney, do you know what’s happening?’.

Often I’m off duty when I get these messages so am in no better position than anyone else to say, sometimes if I am in and have heard what’s occurring on the radio I may be able to give a general idea, although the best place to look for information is usually our official departmental social media feeds.

As it is, the sight of police car after police car zooming by usually gives the impression that something big is going down nearby, ‘big’ as in headlines of the news at six and front page material.

Curiously though it isn’t necessarily true that the more the officers, the more serious the incident they’re on their way to. How we allocate resources to jobs depends a range of factors extending beyond simply that Godzilla is kicking down bits of Streetly.

Some jobs require as many officers to attend as possible in the first instance as without ‘flooding the area’ as we call it, we determine it’s likely that we won’t get the outcome we’re looking for.

Young missing children would be a good example of this – the usual response when we get a report of a toddler having wondered off in the Saddlers Centre is to ask anyone available to make the location straight away and help with the search.

The longer we leave it, the further an inquisitive young explorer can crawl and so with each passing minute, our search area grows.

The same logic applies to other incidents too – a robbery for example will (literally) attract every man and his dog as we want to maximise our chance of catching suspects.

Sometimes you may see large number of vehicles at an incident because we have some information that we might need a large number of officers for safety or perhaps to stop someone slipping out the back door.

Prior to arrest attempts, for example, we’ll check what we know about the person we’re after and if there are suggestions that he or she has been violent in the past or has a tendency not to stick around, we’ll then ensure we have enough pairs of boots to prevent issues.

Deciding who goes to what is largely the job of the control room who will allocate cars to incidents as soon as they’re sent across from the 999 operators.

Jobs involving violence or some other disturbance will usually attract pairs of officers, as some of those responding may well be patrolling single crewed then you may see the cars stacking up outside a neighbouring house giving the impression that something huge is happening whereas in reality, it’s simply down to the fact that officers have brought a car each.

When it comes to deploying the helicopter, probably our most visible bit of kit, its presence doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been a Holby City-style disaster, rather that officers on the ground have determined that asking for a flyover would likely help them spot something not visible at street level.

Metal thieves laying low on rooftops, criminals running off down footpaths or vulnerable people wondering through large open areas are all the sort of situations that may well involve us calling up the chopper.

As for who comes out to jobs, sometimes who might find that the type of unit arriving isn’t quite what you might expect.

I’ve heard recently firearms officers arriving at car accidents and police vans checking out trouble causing drunks in the town centre – this isn’t because they were specifically asked for, rather because the officers will have overheard jobs on the radio and volunteered to attend in the first instance because they may have been close by and are willing to help out until a more appropriate unit arrives.

So in short, the number of officers arriving at an incident doesn’t necessarily indicate that something major has happened and nor does the type of vehicle or officer that we send.

It’s all down to what’s happening on the day – it could be Godzilla on a rampage, equally so though it could be that another officer or two is needed to help with some traffic control.

The jobs where there has been a major incident with us calling in officers from far and wide – the bomb scares, large fires and serious road accidents as examples – usually attract a tweet or two from @WMPolice or one of the local feeds so if you’re ever curious to know what’s happening, check them out as they’re your best source of information.

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout – I’m telling you why…

Christmas is just around the corner, are you prepared for a ‘reverse burglary’ by Santa Clause though? Read on!

Christmas time is here. Check out www.isitchristmas.com tomorrow and it’ll confirm as much – December 25th is only hours away and with it will almost certainly come a massive rise in strange ‘reverse burglaries’.

What exactly is a ‘reverse burglary’ you ask? Well, you may recall last year I featured several posts from Force CID’s DS Kimo on our attempts to capture a suspect known to us as ‘Santa Clause’.

First of all there was our appeal for witnesses which was followed by the arrest of Clause the very next day. We thought we had the case nailed but then on Christmas Eve there was shocking news – our suspect turned out to be an imposter and the real Clause was still at large.

We’d failed and the consequence was that Clause broke into millions of houses around the world over the next few hours, stealing small amounts of brandy but leaving behind high value goods under people’s Christmas trees.

One year on and whilst the operation to capture Clause is ongoing, it’s looking unlikely that he’ll be located before he strikes again this evening.

As this is the case, the best I can offer is a few Christmas crime prevention tips from DS Kimo on how you can best safeguard your house against a strike by Clause himself.

Here’s the advice from the man in the know:

  • Hide the mince pies – Never leave small plates of mince pies and a glass of brandy on open display. We know that Clause pretty much lives off these and they’re as good as an invitation for him to come in and wreak havoc.
  • Block your chimney – Any hardware store should be able to supply the tools you’ll need to ensure that the chimney is not accessible. This is essential as 99% of the time Clause gains access to properties by the chimney.
  • Throw away your ‘Santa Stop Here’ sign – At any other time of year would you put up a sign welcoming burglars? Of course not, don’t encourage the jolly fat man!
  • Obstruct his landing strip – All available intel suggests that Santa reaches rooftops by using a magical sleigh drawn by reindeer. Litter your rooftop with barriers to frustrate his landing and maybe slop a little anti-vandal paint around too.
  • Know what to look for – We believe Clause usually wears a bright red suit with white fur lining and heavy boots, he shouldn’t be hard to spot.
  • Listen out - As well as wearing a bright red suit, Santa seems to have trouble keeping the noise down. If he’s nearby you will probably be able to hear him laughing loudly and encouraging his reindeer to take flight.
  • Don’t write to him – Clause operates in a strange way, he seems to receive letters sent to him up the chimney and then a few weeks later arrives with many of the requested items. Don’t make it easy for him, if he doesn’t know what you want he may not come in the first place.

Now I’m on duty this evening on a special ‘Santa watch’ team so we’ll be keeping our eyes open for any Clause-related activity in the Walsall area and we’ll need you to do the same.

If you do suspect that you’ve seen Clause, please get in touch with me via Twitter and I’ll see what I can do about sending a car or two over.

Beyond this stay safe and have a very merry Christmas!

Rich

It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark…

Assuming you’re reading this at any time after half four in the afternoon, it’s probably getting dark outside. You may be reading sat up in the Arctic Circle, in which case it’s probably dark all the time, but either way, let’s say night is a-falling.

Here in West Midlands Police, the end of British Summertime is as big an event for us as the Winter Solstice is to Pagans.

We don’t exactly break out the flaming torches and dance around stone circles but even so, we do out best to prepare our public for the rise in burglaries that can be encouraged by the darker nights.

It’s because of these dark nights that each year we run our cunningly-named ‘Darker Nights’ campaign, with the aim of informing people about the steps that we recommend to help them beat the burglar.

By checking out the Darker Nights section of our own website, you can find all the information you should need to help ensure that your home is as burglar proof as it can be.

The tips offered don’t involve setting complicated, Home Alone style traps – rather they’re simple, easy pointers such as leaving a light on when you go out, all of which make it more likely that the burglar will pass your house by when he (or she) is out on the prowl for easy targets.

The Darker Nights campaign isn’t only about burglaries though, you can also find information about dealing with trick-or-treaters and if you fancy printing off a poster or two advising would be ghouls that you’d rather not have a visit, have a look at our Darker Nights gallery on Flickr.

The good people behind the Darker Nights campaign have summarised their advice in five easy steps to which I have added a handy ‘CRIME’ acronym*.

They are as follows -

  • Close your curtains – Don’t advertise your possessions to the burglars, close your curtains and don’t leave laptops, phones etc on open display
  • Register your valuables – Keep a list of the serial numbers of all your valuables – take a look at www.immobilise.com where you can register items for free
  • Illuminate your house – You know how in Home Alone, Kevin put the cardboard cut out of the basketball player on a model train so it looked like the house was occupied? Maybe that’s going a little far but leave a light on when you’re out so that it’s not obvious your pad is unattended – consider a timer switch too
  • Make your house secure – Lock your doors and your windows, no matter how small they are
  • Enable your alarm – Got a burglar alarm? Make sure you know how it works and that it’s used, if you don’t have one then consider getting one or at the very least, installing a dummy alarm box somewhere visible

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, for may have seen previous posts about crime prevention and what steps, as a front line officer, I’d recommend you consider taking to avoid becoming a victim.

It’s been a while since some of them were published so if you have a few minutes to spare, please take a butchers at the following crime prevention related posts -

Finally, with Autumn soon to exchange the ‘seasons baton’ with Winter, temperatures will drop and Jack Frost will begin icing up up everything in sight.

As this is the case, please check out this blog from last Winter about why I’d recommend not leaving your cat unattended to defrost.

Yes, I do mean cat.

* Thanks to the dozens of people on Twitter and Facebook who helped me out with the final letter for the CRIME acronym, you are incredible and can all consider yourselves special deputies!

Everything’s not lost…

Computers are smaller than they were in 1999 but this means they’re easier to steal too. Backing up your data is essential!

The other day I’d been thinking about how I could possibly top my blog about lions (I can’t) and had a brief notion that I might try and write something about how important it is to back up your computer, lest it gets nicked and you lose all your data.

Today I’d been sent to a burglary in Walsall and after the victim realised their laptop was missing, the first thing they then said – as many people I’ve met in the past have done – is that all of their holiday photos were gone.

As such I resolved to sit down that very evening and give a few tips on how to back up your computer to ensure that if worst comes to worst and it does get stolen, or even meet a sticky end with a glass of Tizer, that you’re not at a sentimental loss.

Here we are then – the fruit of my typing, a blog post all about just that very subject!

First things first though, your house should be nice and secure because you’ve followed the tips on our Safer Homes website and made sure that you’re not an easy target for the thieves. Your laptop isn’t left in view, you close the curtains when you’re out and you might even have put up a dummy CCTV camera or two.

Furthermore you’ve registered the most valuable of your possessions on Immobilse. You have a record of serial numbers etc so that if we need to we can record them on our crimes computer and identify recovered goods as your own.

Assuming then that having take these steps, some desperate burglar still climbs into your home with a swag bag and does take your computer, what can you do to ensure that they don’t take your data too?

Your operating system likely has options to back up the data automatically to an external source. Here’s how to do it on Windows XP, Vista/Windows 7 and for all you counter culture free thinkers, OS X.

There are also a variety of free and not so free programs that can be downloaded through the interweb tubes that do similar things but in different ways, giving you more control over what is saved and when the back up takes place.

Backing up doesn’t have to be done through a special program though – the most straightforward way is simply to insert a disc, USB stick or external hard drive and copy any files you need to.

Once you’ve done so you need to do what I do – hide said device or disc somewhere that no one would ever think of looking so that you know it’s safe.

Cursed burial grounds, magical lands found in wardrobes and Walsall Police FC’s trophy cabinet are all good places to hide your back up, in the middle of the floor, under the cat or in the kettle are not.

Getting into the habit of backing up your data regularly is always a good idea and as I’ve mentioned, many of the programs available can be scheduled to run automatically so that you don’t even have to remember to do it yourself.

If physical computer dongles aren’t your thing but clouds are, another good option is to use a service such as Dropbox or Norton 360, both of which allow you to upload data to their servers where it is safe by virtue of being stored in an air conditioned bunker somewhere three thousand miles away.

Burglaries are one of the worst call outs that we get and it’s horrible to see people when they realise that they’ve lost all of the photos they’ve taken of their children over the past three years.

Don’t let it happen to you – please back it up!

P.S. There won’t be any new posts over the next few weeks as I’m off on my jolly holidays, usual service will resume upon my return. In the meantime please keep yourselves entertained by checking out one of my favourite websites, Cats For Gold.


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