Posts Tagged 'theft'

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.

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

Take it where you find it…

Should your stuff be stolen, what can you do to help increase the chances that you’ll get it back?

The first question I’m often asked when taking a report of a theft concerns how likely it is that the victim will get their stuff back.

The likelihood sometimes comes down to how ‘clever’ (relatively speaking) the thief has been in disposing of the goods, although there are steps that it’s always a good idea to take in the short term as they can only increase the chances of recovering goods.

When we arrest folk under suspicion of theft, we have a power to go and search their homes and this is something that we do to see if they’ve been stupid enough to leave behind any evidence of their crime.

We’re not always lucky when it comes to searches and this is because when it comes to offloading stolen goods, it’s something that criminals will want to do as soon as possible to avoid getting caught red handed.

Wanting to be rid of the ‘hot’ goods, it’s a buyer’s market and the items will be sold for a fraction of their value.

With goods being quickly offloaded, there are some sensible steps that you can take to follow the trail yourself and help raise the chances of seeing your stuff again.

Said sensible steps that I’d be looking to take following discovering a theft are as follows:

  • Have a search around the local area: Particularly in burglaries, criminals sometimes stash goods in hedges etc so that they can return at a later point and ‘find’ them with it then being harder to connect them with the crime. Have a good look around local undergrowth, wastelands and woods to see if there are any signs that something has been stashed.
  • Browse online: I recently dealt with a job where the victim found his stolen goods for sale on eBay and was able to alert us so we could follow up the lead. Check the auction sites, message boards, local papers etc and see if your goods have appeared.
  • Check the pawn shops: Most respected pawn brokers take photographs of people bringing in things to sell and ask for ID too, this isn’t to say that it’s not worth checking though.

The above tips go hand in hand with the advice I’ve given before and will continue to give until I’m about to retire with a long Gandolf beard, this is that you should make a list of all of your valuables and register them on Immobilise.

It’s simple enough – without serial numbers, identifying features or photographs it can be frustratingly difficult to tell who things belonged to when they’re been recovered suspected stolen.

Immobilse is a totally free online property register allowing you to put together a list of your valuables that we can then check and use to get goods back to you.

Pawn shops check serial numbers against the database also and in another real life example I’d dealt with recently, a pawn shop had stopped the sale of a PS3 when they found it was nicked.

We then checked ourselves, confirmed the theft and contacted the rightful owner to arrange its return.

So there they are, a few handy tips for property recovery and there’s little else for me to add than another reminder, this time in shouting capital letters and bold font, that if you take nothing else from this blog, it ought be that you should GO AND REGISTER YOUR VALUABLES ON IMMOBILISE – please, please, please!

Meat is murder…

Bacon! The official meat of the interweb and increasingly popular with thieves. What gives?

Working as a cop, I’m never too far away from associations with meat due to our (probably affectionate) nickname as ‘the pigs’.

As someone who eats more than their fair share of mixed grills, I’m quite comfortable with this.

On the investigation team too, our links with meat seem to be even stronger as we deal with many shoplifters and as a result, seem to end up investigating many reports of thefts involving meat and cheese.

Meat and cheese you say? Who would want to steal that?

Well, at the moment meat and dairy products seem to be very popular with thieves who have developed a sophisticated, Ocean’s 11-style, system for stealing packs of bacon.

It involves cutting holes in shop roofs using miniature lasers, abseiling out of helicopters and then escaping to Brazil with their bounty in a custom-built submarine before jetting off to a moon base where they all remove their latex face masks and sit around stroking cats.

Rather, they simply walk into a shop, do a quick ‘check for CCTV glance’ (this usually involves staring straight into the camera) and then stuffing blocks of cheese down their tracksuit tops before running out the door.

I would say that anecdotally, we seem to be seeing a rise in the popularity of meat and cheese with thieves looking for a quick profit which they can put towards a wrap or two of heroin.

Looking at the health of most of the shoplifters that end up in our cells, they don’t appear to be subsiding on Philly cheesesteaks suggesting that the produce is actually ending up in the bellies of people who decided to take up an offer of a cheap block of cheese having been offered it in a pub.

Judging from the cost of my own weekly shop, I’m well aware that food isn’t cheap so there’s an added incentive to cut corners and save a penny or two when opportunity presents itself.

It’s worth baring in mind though that rather than being refrigerated to Food Standards Agency guidelines, the produce on offer has more likely than not been pressed against a warm, unwashed armpit or crotch for the past three or four hours.

Still fancy eating it?

I’ve searched the FSA website and can’t find any recommendations that meat or dairy products be stored at body temperature or bathed in sweat/other ‘juices’ and so I’m going to conclude that doing so probably isn’t in the best interests of someone’s health.

If you’re offered some bacon on the bus, some beef in a bar or some cheddar in the coffee shop, firstly you really don’t want to accept it.

The pence you’ll save won’t be enough to justify the forty eight hour vomiting spree you risk, nor the offence of handling stolen goods that you may open yourself to.

Secondly, it’s always a good idea to give us a call straight away and let us know that there’s a dodgy pedlar about.

Catching someone with the goods on their person is good evidence and it doesn’t take long to trace the source of the meat either, especially when it’s got ‘Tesco’ stamped all over it.

All thing going to plan, we’ll be able to arrest the culprit and take him or her to the nearest station where they’ll be searched, documented and thoroughly grilled in interview!

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.

In it for the money…

None for you, pimps! The lovely Proceeds of Crime Act enables us to seize back criminals’ ill-gotten gains and it’s the Payback Team that makes it all happen.

Pimps. Things they like: Big hats, diamond encrusted canes, fur coats, monster trucks, rubies.
Things they don’t like: The Proceeds of Crime Act and the good people at the West Midlands Police Force Payback Team.
Yes, there are few things little criminals like less than being told by a wig-wearing judge that they now owe several hundred thousand pounds following a calculation of a ‘benefit figure’ indicating ‘this is is what we reckon you’ve made from crime and so this is the amount we want back’.
I’ve written about the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 before, focusing on the legal side of what we can and can’t do when we’re looking to seize a drug dealer’s pet tiger from their rear garden in Goscote.
As for who are the people who makes the POCA wheels turn, allows me to introduce the Force Payback Team who are a specialist group of officers and support staff dedicated to ensuring that crime does not pay.
Working as part of a centrally based team, the Force Payback Team tend to become involved when as part of their investigations, officers out on the street come across people living the kind of lifestyles that their benefits payments probably wouldn’t cover.
Cash over a certain value can be seized and forfeited by the courts regardless of whether they are accompanied by a criminal prosecution.
The Force Payback Team can also apply for confiscation orders through the courts following a criminal conviction and includes a calculation as to how much someone has profited from their illegitimate pursuits.
Should the criminals ignore orders made against them, they can be sent to prison for up to 10 years and still have to pay the money back.  If not paid the courts can get receivers in to gather up all the Bugattis, cash, houses and anything else of value and haul them off to sell.
So far this financial year the Force Payback Team have been responsible for recovering over £3 million in cash and nearly £2.5 million in assets.
Of the recovered bounty, 50% is returned to the force and 50% finds its way to the Home Office whilst for assets, the force receives 18.5% of the total reflecting the work and greater number of agencies involved in recovering assets.
So then, we’ve done the hard work and one day an anonymous civil servant from the Home Office turns up at Force HQ with a suitcase of cash. What are we going to do with it? Where does it go?
Well, whilst I have had my eye on those voice activated Apple iHandcuffs with the built-in wifi, the true benefit of the cash is really in enabling us to reinvest in some very important community projects.
Local examples of where POCA cash has ended up include a £750 to the Sea Cadets and funding Walsall’s futuristic Cyberbus which floats around the LPU addressing ASB issues.
Many of the successful seizures to have come from the Payback Team’s work will have started off with a phone call from a member of the public to their local officers suggesting that someone on their street seems to be managing the income from their paper round remarkably well as they’ve just picked up a new BMW.
As such if you suspect that someone’s income isn’t entirely legitimate, please give us a call on 101 or approach Crimestoppers anonymously.
Criminals only stand to lose and the community stands to gain – this is the way things should be!

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.

One time and one time only…

A year on from the August Riots the canteen at the station is a much more peaceful place – what perspective has the year put on the disorders though?

A year ago this week officers from Walsall, from Birmingham, London and across the country found themselves in the midst of some of the worst rioting seen in England for years.

The destruction seemed wholesale, the rioters shockingly ambitious and at the same time random in their choice of victims. Images of police lines stretched across a blazing skyline shot across the world, leaving in their wake tough questions about how the riots had come to be.

Writing now, a year on, it’s hard to believe that a year has passed since those three days in August.

Repairs to the stricken areas continue, buildings have been torn down and the empty gaps they’ve left stand as a stark reminder of what can happen when the perception spreads that law and order has broken down.

I can’t claim to have played a particularly important role in the riots myself. I wasn’t one of the officers charging past broken shops near the Bullring, nor was I stood watching the Carpetright shop engulfed by a firestorm in Haringey.

Instead I was one of the many officers working extended shifts to restore the impression that the law still stood, that those who had come to riot would face the consequences and that the public ought not be panicked by what they saw each night on the news.

Looking back, what stood out to me at the time and what still stands today is the impression that whilst the rioters seemed to enjoy a fleeting taste of the upper hand, the police and other emergency services reacted and adapted with a professionalism that was nothing short of inspiring.

Rest days were cancelled, officers found themselves in unfamiliar situations and faced people on the streets who appeared set upon harming them by any means possible.

Faced with such apparent hatred the officers I worked alongside didn’t buckle, didn’t hesitate – instead they volunteered to work on, shift after shift in unimaginable situations and without a word of complaint.

To me the riots were particularly disturbing owing to the suddenness with which they took hold.

Riots, I’d always thought, would be prefaced by a period of visible tension, by rising discontent leading to a tipping point at which tensions boiled over and barricades sprung up.

A great deal of work has been done investigating the cause of the riots, notably through the Guardian and LSE’s collaborative project Reading The Riots, with various reasons raised by the rioters themselves in attempts to explain why they had taken to the streets.

Frustration at the use of Stop & Search powers in some areas has been floated as one reason and as a contributor; an argument could be made that these frustrations represent the preface I’d have expected with shooting of Mark Duggan representing the tipping point.

Sensible use of stop powers allied with better communication with the affected communities seem to be the way forward to address perceptions of frustration, and indeed forces across the country have already done a great deal of work to bridge divides.

Other explanations have looked towards gangs, social media and simple opportunism, the latter of which I think seems the most convincing explanation for why people, sometimes even those with no criminal background, found their way to the trouble spots and began to loot.

A year’s hindsight has suggested to me that whatever the cause of the original riots in Tottenham, the disorders that followed were able to take place because the idea had taken hold that ‘everyone was at it’, that the opportunity had unexpectedly presented itself to loot with impunity and that this, for some, was an opportunity that could not be missed.

As for why the riots came to a close, officers being made available in large numbers through Mutual Aid, some 16,000 in London alone, now appears to have been the principle deterrent to those thinking of returning to the streets for another night of disorder.

Proposed cuts to police numbers in this respect need to keep this in view – financial circumstances make cuts necessary but not at the expense of our ability to raise large numbers should the need arise.

The tragic deaths of the three men on Dudley Road, Birmingham, similarly arrested the further development of the riots, accompanied as they were by the impassioned appeal for calm of Tariq Jahan, father of one of those lost.

The riots, already sinister in tone, had taken on a direction that even those originally enthusiastic about the looting seemed reluctant to follow.

A year seems like a long time but as I’ve said, looking back it’s hard to believe that twelve months now stand between today and those chaotic, hellish scenes.

The need to maintain a visible, believable presence, alongside an ability to rapidly respond to incidents before they are able to escalate, will likely be the key elements in preventing a repeat of history and I think are some of the most important considerations to take from the riots.

Whilst the riots thankfully reached their conclusion after a few long days, a conclusion is yet to be reached on their legacy, with this anniversary reminding us that time does not heal all wounds.

The IPCC, for example, is yet to report on Mark Duggan’s death and investigations are ongoing to identify outstanding rioters with Operation View still yielding results in the West Midlands.

We have the flexibility in our structure and the quality in our people to deal with situations such as those seen during last August.

The real measure of our response to the riots will come not on this anniversary but in ten, twenty or thirty years time – should those decades pass without a repeat of the 2011 riots then we’ll know the steps we took away from Tottenham were steps taken in the right direction.

Olympics update – apologies for the lack of blogs over the past few weeks, I’d been down in London helping Lord Coe out at the games. I’m looking at putting a blog together about the experience of living and working in the capital just as soon as the games themselves draw to a close – highlights include the torch relay, Team USA and Wimbledon so stay tuned!.

She could steal but she could not rob…

“Help! We’re being robbed! Or burgled? Or is this theft?” – where’s the difference?

“They broke into me house when I was out and they robbed me telly!” – This is a report that’ll be made to officers across the country on a daily basis but is it actually robbery? Is ‘theft’ different and where do we draw the line?

For us police officers, language makes a big difference. Swapping one word for another can make the difference between someone walking away from the cells with a caution and instead walking down the steps to prison.

Theft, burglary, robbery – all are similar offences but separated by some very important distinctions that affect how we and the courts would deal with offenders.

Starting off with the most basic offence, theft, us officers get made to memorise the definition given S. 1 by the Theft Act 1968 that a person commits theft when he or she ‘dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it’.

The Act defines exactly what each component of this definition means, basically implying that the law will classify you as a thief is you knowingly take property that you have no right to and treat it in such a way as to prevent the lawful owner having use of it.

Robbery stems from this basic offence – theft is the seed from which the latter crime grows and without this seed, robbery cannot occur.

Robbery is defined under S. 8 of the Theft Act and is where in order to steal, an offender uses force or the threat of force. The force can be used before the theft takes place or at the time and doesn’t necessarily have to be against the victim.

So robbery is theft with the accompanying use of force, how is burglary different?

Whilst force is the separating factor between theft and robbery, it is trespassing that makes burglary distinct from simple theft. S. 9 of the Theft Act defines burglary with reference to entering ‘any building or part of a building as a trespasser’.

Not content with making the definition as simple as that though, S. 9 throws in a further consideration that if you enter a building as a trespasser not to steal but instead to cause damage or to seriously assault someone you can also consider yourself a burglar.

So there we have it, theft separated from robbery and the two more or less set apart from burglary. All are serious crimes and ones that we’re working hard to prevent with operations such as Serve & Protect ongoing to target the worst offenders.

As for how well we’re doing, you can have a look at some of the crime stats over on our official website – notice the drop in robbery by nearly a third since 2002 and total crime falling by not far from 20%.

The figures are heading in the right direction, no doubt partially due to people following crime prevention tips and avoiding becoming victims in the first place.

We’re looking to steal the easy opportunities from the criminals – with your help I’m sure we can drive crime down even further!

P.S. I had been asked by a friend to clarify what the difference is between the offences of ‘assault with intent to rob’ and ‘attempted robbery’. Looking into the advice that CPS offer, it seems that the first offence is an appropriate one to go for if the victim has managed to retain their property during, say, a struggle with the offender on the street. It is, however, an apparent grey area and I’d encourage anyone with a more detailed knowledge than me to leave a comment expanding further?

We’re the stars of CCTV…

As you can see from the above video, criminals are an an ugly lot. They’re so unpleasant to look at that they don’t want to offend anyone else with their horrible looks and so often wear their hoodies done up as tightly as possible, dodge mirrors and in all cases avoid CCTV cameras like the plague.

CCTV is one of the best lines of investigation we as police have and one of the first questions an officer is likely to ask when attending an incident is ‘are there any cameras covering the area?’. Good quality footage is very hard to argue against and when shown images of their own faces during interview, even the slowest burglar is likely to recognise that denial of the offence is futile.

Because CCTV is so useful to us in solving crimes, should you consider a system for your home and if the answer is yes (see the below paragraph) then what’s the best advice for installing cameras and are there any legal considerations to take into account?

As you may have guessed, my advice would be that investing in a good CCTV system is one of the best steps you can take to protect your home from opportunistic miscreants. There are two main advantages – one, that footage of an offender is invaluable in the course of an investigation and two, that merely having visible cameras provides a powerful deterrent.

When I say ‘invest’, CCTV needn’t be expensive with a search on the site of a popular online retailer named after a large South American rainforest revealing that systems are available for as little as £60. Dummy cameras are even less.

The range of systems in mind, it’s always best to go for the highest specification kit in your price bracket as when it comes to CCTV footage the most important consideration is image quality. We often view recordings on lower end systems in which the offenders appear like spooky, misty ghosts who pop up in one frame and then are gone not even allowing us to take a clothing description. This is obviously little help to us.

Many systems offer capabilities such as night vision and motion sensors, record onto a hard drive and can be played back through a television. If you’re keen on your gadgets, some even can be connected to the internet meaning that you can access your CCTV from anywhere in the world and view footage live on a computer or smart phone.

As for where you position the cameras, this is a choice limited by how many cameras you have at your disposal however if you only have one or two I’d be tempted to prioritise the rear of your property as many break ins occur with offenders gaining entry through rear or side facing windows and doors.

How well overlooked your house is will make a difference to where you might want to position your cameras with the idea being that criminals are going to be attracted to the entry points not overlooked and so this is where your cameras are best placed. If you have a front drive and particularly if you have some nice motors sitting on said drive, a camera covering your cars is always a good bet too.

With the system installed and the cameras recording the next thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that you know how to access the footage itself. You may be surprised at how often, both in private houses and shops, people will have excellent CCTV but no idea how to view it and even less knowledge of how to burn a copy to a disc.

As it seems to be an unwritten law that every CCTV system must run on different software and has to record in a different format, it’s really helpful to us that the person with the cameras knows how it works and has some discs available to make us a copy of the footage.

The other important thing is that the time is right on your time stamp. I’ve lost track of how often I’ve struggled to work out what time frame we need to be reviewing when the system is set incorrectly. It’s usually the case of “Well, your camera is one hour and forty two minutes fast, that clock over there is six hours and eight minutes slow and with the clocks going back an hour at 02:00 last night I think we need to set the date for around about 17:59 on 03/06/1996 and watch from there” – confusing!

What about the law though? Are CCTV cameras installed at home covered by any legislation and could you get into trouble by installing cameras?

First of all, whilst businesses have to comply with the principles of the Data Protection Act the same does not apply to people using CCTV for purely ‘domestic purposes’ at home. This means you don’t have to put up signs warning others that you’re using cameras and don’t – unless you really want to – have to assign someone to be the ‘data controller’ or ‘data king’. It also means there’s not an issue if your camera covers part of a public street.

What you do need to do though is to bare in mind that your neighbours have a right to privacy and so you can’t infringe on that right by, for example, directing a camera right at their house. This could be seen as an violation of their right to privacy under the Human Rights Act and potentially could also form the basis of a harassment complaint.

The other legal consideration – civil this time – is whether you need planning permission for your cameras. This mainly applies to any of you reading this blog from inside a castle or stately home. Planning permission is only something you’re likely to need if you live in a listed building or a conservation area so if you do, check with your council before sorting out camera coverage for your moat.

CCTV regularly forms an important part of the case against all sorts of criminal activities and so can be an invaluable weapon in both the prevention, and detection, of crime.

Setting yourself up with a decent system is a sure step to ensuring that the criminals’ ugly faces end up where they belong – on film and then behind bars.


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