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28 October 2014
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  Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday October 13, 2003


Attempted break in
Lock up, hide contents and park in a safe place.

West Midlands Police are cracking down on car crime and Inside Out investigates the problem and reports on some of the solutions.

Mark Leo was a car thief. He is banned from every car park in the country until 2007.

Since leaving prison, in December 2002, Mark Leo has gone straight.

During his crime spree he was, previously, responsible for breaking into one in twenty of the cars in Wolverhampton city centre.

Nothing would deter him, not even closed circuit television cameras.

"Soon as they turn back round, duck, hide behind the car," explains Mark.

" Soon as they turn back round again, jump in and do what you got to do and go. So cameras are no deterrent really."

Undercover policing

"None of it puts me off. Cameras, you just wait for them to turn the other way. Do what you got to do."
Mark Leo

Now there are detectives from West Midlands police working, undercover, to deter car criminals.

They are increasingly using decoy cars to catch the crooks 'red handed'.

The bait is often a mobile phone or CD player in clear sight of passers by.

"They are left on the front passenger seat ... and we take it from there and see what happens," said PC Richard Horn.

Inspector Paul Hawkins is responsible for the undercover operation and he said;

"Car crime is no different to anywhere else in the land. It is a major issue throughout the UK and the West Midlands and Wolverhampton is no different.

"In Wolverhampton city centre we tend to have 30/40 vehicles broken into each month."

In Birmingham, scenes of crimes officer, Becky Taylor gets her first call of the day. Thieves have broken into two cars parked at a city centre hotel.

Becky has to search the two cars for fingerprint and DNA evidence. The hope is that evidence will match up to a known criminal.

American consternation

One of the car drivers, an American, has not only lost his laptop with important information on it but also his passport.

"It looked like a lot of cameras were here. I didn't like this spot but it was the only place available last night.

"I am disheartened. I travel a great deal. I travel to Asia. I felt pretty safe in England. I didn't think something like this would happen here.

"Back in the states I have never had a car broken into, stolen or anything like this before."Anon

Now its a case of waiting for forensic results.

Also waiting for a result is the undercover team in Wolverhampton.

Two officers keep a close eye on the decoy car, while others patrol the streets on foot and by car.

PC Richard Horn said;

"Something will happen. Someone will come down and you think he ain't right.

"And then that's when you say lads get a bit closer, get a bit closer and if he does it hopefully we have covered all the bases."


Radios with the face on or the face left in the car

Alarm sensors placed high up in cars

Boxes left in the back and other items left on display.

Even leaving an empty box in a car could mean a broken window.

When parking in manned car parks try and park as near to the attendant as possible.

When parking under CCTV cameras make sure to park in their area of view.

The best CCTV cameras to park under are fixed ones. That way car crooks can't dodge them and break into your vehicle.

Preventative measures?

No matter how safe you secure your car, crooks will always find a way of getting in. But some companies are now fighting back.

One of the latest inventions to stop car criminals is SuperGlass.

This consists of a thin layer of specially developed laminate bonded to the inside of car windows and made by British company, Pentagon.

The glass is strong enough to stop most car criminals. Even when smashed it still holds the window in place.

Like new methods of protecting cars, the police are striving to find new means of catching car crooks.

Mark Leo took me on a quick tour of cars and had the last word;

"This used to be one of my favourite streets cos it's so appealing. The factories are boarded up so its a blind spot.

"No one can see from the roadside COs there are bushes all down there, so I find this street really appealing.

"And look at the amount of cars that's down there as well. I'd probably hit about ten cars down here."

See also ...

Car crime

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West Midlands Police

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