Crime: Thieves, robbers and burglars to be fitted with GPS tags
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Crime: Thieves, robbers and burglars to be fitted with GPS tags

By Jenny Rees

BBC Wales home affairs correspondent

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionPolice will be able to cross-reference data from the tags to new crimes

Prolific burglars, robbers and thieves are to be tagged with GPS trackers in a bid to stop them reoffending.

Offenders will be automatically tagged for up to 12 months after being released from prison, under a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) pilot.

Gwent, Avon and Somerset, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Humberside and West Midlands police forces are all taking part.

The MoJ said tracking offenders 24 hours a day would act as a deterrent.

It estimated 250 offenders, who have served a year in prison, will be fitted with the tag in the first six months of the scheme, as part of their licence conditions.

Police will be able to cross-reference the GPS data with reports of new thefts, robberies and burglaries to see if offenders were in the area at the time.

‘Burgled 12 times in 30 years’

image captionDiane Titmus says she has stopped claiming on her insurance

Burglars broke into Diane Titmus’s hair salon, stealing about £2,000 of stock and all of her stylists’ hairdryers and straighteners, in December last year.

The break-in was the 12th time the Newport salon had been broken into in 30 years.

“They just took the most expensive items, they knew what they were doing,” said Ms Titmus.

“The first time it happened was some years ago. I came in on the Christmas weekend, our biggest weekend, they had taken every single item.

“I had to run around to all my friends and borrow dryers, scissors, just to be able to work that day.

“I was really very, very upset, but also angry. How dare they? I worked really hard all my life to have this, just for someone to come in and take it.”

Ms Titmus said it had happened so many times she no longer made claims on her insurance because of the increase it would mean to her premium.

“Other times they’ve cost me £500 when they break a window and they probably had about 30p in pennies that were left in the drawer,” she said.

“We just have to write it off as a loss. We work hard for a week to pay the burglar – that’s how it works out.”

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionMore than half of those convicted of theft reoffend within a year of being released

During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of theft and burglary offences in England and Wales fell as many people stayed at home.

Minister for Crime and Policing Kit Malthouse said, with levels expect to return to those seen before Covid-19, the tagging pilot was “critical”.

“We want to make sure we help those offenders get back on the straight and narrow,” he said.

“We think 24-hour-a-day supervision, through this tag on their ankle, will help them to realise that they’re effectively being watched, and therefore choose something else to do, other than go back to their former crime.

“It’s a rigorous supervision in a way that we haven’t really seen before and we think it will have a big impact.”

image captionKit Malthouse said the tags would help catch repeat offenders

More than half of those convicted of theft reoffend within a year of being released from prison, according to MoJ figures.

It said these types of crimes cost the public an estimated £4.8bn a year, yet 79% of theft cases and 62% of robbery cases resulted in no suspect being identified – compared with an average of 24% in all other cases.

Following the pilots, the MoJ said it planned to roll out the scheme, run by the National Probation Service, to a further 13 forces in September.

Tags have already been introduced in parts of England and Wales to monitor whether offenders who who were convicted of committing crimes while fuelled with alcohol, have been drinking.

The “sobriety tags” monitor sweat levels of the wearer every 30 minutes to see whether they have drunk alcohol. The probation service is then alerted if they have had a drink.

image captionAmanda Blakeman said she hoped targeting serial offenders would reduce crime in the area

Gwent’s Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said a small number of offenders were committing thefts, burglaries and robberies.

“Offenders tend to be serial offenders doing quite a lot of these types of crime over a short period of time, that can be very forensically aware, they can locate premises that aren’t overlooked so there aren’t any witnesses and then it becomes very difficult to pull those clues together to solve that particular crime.

“Obviously with the ability to be able to tag our persistent offenders it means we’re able to see where they are and if they’re in proximity of offences that have occurred,” she said.

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