How to catch a thief

According to the latest statistics, over 3.7 million cases of theft and nearly 83,000 cases of robbery were reported last year in England and Wales. What can’t be shown in a Home Office report is the emotional impact each of these crimes had on the individuals affected. Having something stolen from you can feel deeply personal and it’s normal to experience a variety of emotions from shock through to anger and everything in between. Depending on the severity of the theft, it’s likely that your day, week or even month will be ruined as you deal with the emotional, financial and administrative fallout of the crime. 

After gathering your thoughts, your first port of call should always be to call the police. According to police.uk if the theft was via a mugging or if the situation is an emergency you should always call 999 as soon as possible, otherwise you can report the stolen item by going to your nearest police station or calling your local police in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by dialling 101.

When the police have filed the report and provided you with a crime reference number you’ll then be able to make any insurance claims (if applicable). To prevent the crime from happening again, you can implement a number of crime prevention tactics which are listed on the police website. With these now in place, would-be thieves should hopefully be more deterred from targeting you again.

But what about the thief who stole from you? Figures released last year showed that the majority of theft and robbery cases across the UK were not solved, meaning more often than not a suspect was never brought to justice. Although this news paints a gloomy picture, there are ways in which you can increase the likelihood of a thief being caught. 

CCTV

Last year West Midlands Police said that cases in which no witnesses, CCTV or forensic evidence was found, the chances of finding the offenders were ‘vastly reduced’. So after asking anyone around whether or not they saw your possession being stolen, the number one way in which you can catch the thief is on camera. 

The installation of privately owned CCTV has increased significantly over the past few years and with the improvement in technology you can now install in your home an HD wireless camera, with night vision and huge storage capacity without breaking the bank. Footage capturing thieves at work can be very good evidence for the police and it raises the chances of them finding the culprits.

It should be noted though that CCTV used on private property is not required to consent with the Data Protection Act unless it captures footage of individuals outside of your property or land. There are other rules and regulations for business owners when it comes to CCTV, more information can be found on the gov.uk website

Using camera’s to deter or help identify a thief can extend beyond the home. For example, you could set up a camera, whether that be an inward facing dash cam, old mobile phone or even a baby monitor in your car to capture footage of any would-be thieves. However, it should be noted that whilst it is generally permitted to use spy cameras under certain conditions under UK law, there are elements of the Data Protection Act, the Human Rights Act and the CCTV Code Of Practice, which should be adhered to. 

GPS tracking

Along with the rise of surveillance cameras across the country, GPS tracking technology has also become a staple in modern society. It’s now standard in many cars, a constant feature in smartphones and computers and it’s been used to create devices which can help you track anything from your lost keys, a package you sent or even your dog. All of this means that if a thief steals something from you, there is a large chance that it’s equipped with GPS tracking in some form or another. 

So let’s take a look at some of the things most often taken that can be tracked via GPS. 

Phones, tablets and laptops

According to police.uk, the most common item stolen in a robbery is a mobile phone but thanks to tracking apps such as ‘Find My iPhone’ and ‘Google Find My Device’ you can login on a different device and see the exact location of your missing phone or its last known location if the thieves have turned it off. These apps will also allow you to remotely lock and/or wipe your devices to keep your information safe.

Other apps such as Prey and Hidden even take pictures of the thief using the phone’s camera and pass that information back to you. It should be noted that if you are able to track the location of the phone, the information you gather should be passed on to the police to deal with. 

The same principle goes for laptops, tablets and computers, all of which can have tracking apps installed and activated. If you haven’t equipped or set up a tracking app on your device there is still another way in which you could track down the culprit. Search through websites such as eBay and Craigslist and if you find your device for sale, contact the police so that they can take the appropriate action

Cars

As previously stated, your first port of call with any theft should be to contact the police and provide them with as much information as possible about your vehicle. The more information they have, the greater the chance they have of finding it. 

Many cars these days come with built-in GPS trackers, however, if your vehicle does not you can easily buy one of these handy little gadgets online. Some trackers even come with an ignition kill switch, preventing the thieves from turning the car back on again after it’s been switched off. 

Just like with mobile phones and laptops, all is not lost though if you haven’t equipped your vehicle with a GPS tracker. Again, check various websites online to see if anyone is selling your vehicle. Stolen cars are often sold for their parts online and there are automated checking systems, such as Craigslist checker that can help you find the parts from your stolen car. If you are able to identify any parts or indeed find your entire vehicle for sale, call the police, pass the information on to them and wait for their help. 

CSI equipment

One of the key principles of policing as laid out by Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the Metropolitan Police, is that, ‘Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.’

With that philosophy in mind and shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation providing inspiration, advances in modern technology have allowed the public to become amateur sleuths able to gather extraordinarily detailed evidence. Online you can purchase anything from anti-theft powders and fingerprint brushes to tamper bags and electrostatic footprint kits. It should be noted however that whilst these types of equipment might allow you identify a thief, it’s unlikely the police would be able to use the evidence in court to secure a conviction since they did not collect the evidence themselves.

At Crime+Investigation we strive for accuracy. However, if you see something that doesn’t look right, please let us know.