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Yorkshire & Lincolnshire

You are in: Inside Out > Yorkshire & Lincolnshire > Capture houses

Terraced houses... a warm welcome for villians

Capture houses

House burglary may seem a relatively low level crime, but West Yorkshire Police is using high-tech solutions to reduce break-ins and catch criminals.

When away from home

Make sure your home looks like someone is living in it.

Don't close your curtains – in daytime this shows the house is empty.

Think about getting automatic time-switches to turn your lights on and off.

Fit mortise locks or bolts to all outside doors, and locks to all downstairs or easily accessible windows.

Cancel any milk or newspaper deliveries if you're away on holiday.

Don't leave valuables, like your TV, hi-fi or video, where people can see them through windows.

Mark your property. You can get easy-to-use property marking kits from stationers and DIY stores.

Easily visible locks may deter some thieves.

DIY shops sell inexpensive key-operated locks.

If you are replacing windows – consider laminated glass.

As a last resort, consider fitting security grilles to vulnerable windows.

Every day there are an average of 20 burglaries across Leeds.

Most of the crimes remain unseen, but Inside Out witnessed a rare occasion when a burglar was caught on camera.

The intruder's every move was watched by the police with the ability to pinpoint them at the scene of the crime.

Assistant Chief Constable David Crompton said: "The thief doesn't know which houses we have rigged up.

"The technology used is far too good, far too small, they never spot it, and the first thing they know is when we land on your doorstep to make an arrest."

Detective Sergeant Colman Coyne told Inside Out: "If we could round up 20 burglars in Bradford then burglaries would fall by 85%. But we just keep going, keep arresting them.

"Eventually they will be sent to prison or young offenders, eventually they come back out and we start all over again."

So could a new high-tech approach catch prolific offenders and reduce burglaries at the same time?

In the Beeston area of Leeds a West Yorkshire Police capture house is rigged with the latest CCTV equipment - all it requires is someone willing to break-in.

High-tech tools

Finally, a burglar takes the bait and it doesn't take him long to gain access to the property

Thief captured on cctv

TV thief captured on cctv

However for thief Dwayne Mitchum, he is unwittingly the star of the show.

As well as video surveillance there is also another surprise element - Smart Water, a solution that marks individuals and property with a unique and identifiable code.

Thief Mitchum and an accomplice take the TV and get away in less than two minutes.

But helped by the technology detectives are able to arrest Mitchum and recover the TV.

He received a nine-month prison term.

Successful capture house trial

Assistant Chief Constable David Crompton explained: "The capture house is completely indistinguishable from any other house in that street or area.

"The difference is the house is rigged up with hidden cameras which are so small that no-one is going to spot them or know where they are hidden.

"And the first that the burglar knows is when we are dropping on them to arrest them."

Assistant Chief Constable Crompton

ACC Crompton spearheads crime control

After successful trials in Leeds, the "Capture House" programme is being rolled out across the county to areas like Little Horton in Bradford.

ACC Crompton explained: "We have put it in the Little Horton area and other areas where we get a rash of burglaries and where we see a pattern emerging."

Inside Out asked how successful the experiment had been so far.

ACC Crompton said: "Each time we used one we had a result. We caught people burgling the house, and they got substantial custodial sentences".

Inside Out asked what  kind of reaction the police get from burglars when they realise they have been caught in one of these houses.

ACC Crompton explained: "They absolutely hate being outsmarted by the police. They have to throw their hands up at the end of the day because the evidence is really good".

Effective tool or PR plan?

So can the capture house be an effective crime fighting weapon or is it simply good PR for the police?

Dr David Skinns, a criminologist from The University of Huddersfield, believes the scheme is not the magic bullet to tackle burglaries.

Terraced houses

He said: "Clearly there can only be a limited number of capture houses yet there is a huge burglary rate.

"As a consequence therefore your impact on the overall rate is going to be quite small.

"Although, I would admit, the way the West Yorkshire force use capture houses does mean that the simple chance of capturing them as it were is greater because they are focusing on previously targeted places."

Michael 'Beat the Burglar' Fraser knows all about burglaries – he used to commit them.

Now a security expert, Fraser believes it's up to home owners to help themselves when it comes to beating the burglar.

Expert's perspective

Inside Out took Michael Fraser into the suburbs of Leeds to see if the city is as safe as houses or whether its homes provide easy pickings for burglars.

Fraser explained that houses with old wooden frames can be forced open in seconds. The burglars simply empty the house and the owners come home to devastation.

Owners sometimes leave ladders around and this also makes a thief's life easy:

"They say to me - come and use me, come and get into the property".

"From the moment a burglar has identified a property, he will be in that property within 10 seconds," says Fraser.

Ex-villain Michael Fraser

Michael Fraser advises on security

"On the other hand with an open road, with alarms, passive lights and nosey neighbours, there is protection from burglary."

Inside Out asked Michael Fraser what he thinks of the capture houses which police are setting up to catch burglars.

Fraser replied: "I think it's a great initiative, wonderful, but the police aren't there 24 hours, you are.

"You live in that area it's down to us as individuals to look after our own area."

Capture car

Police in Bradford are also using a so-called "capture car" which is parked in a public place and left unattended.

Criminals who break into and steal goods from the car are sprayed with a liquid invisible to the naked eye.

The fluid is only detectable under special lighting. One man has already been jailed and another arrested.

While new technology may help police identify burglary suspects more accurately, arresting them is still done the old fashioned way.

last updated: 21/03/2008 at 14:40
created: 19/03/2008

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