Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

'Stolen goods' fear in downturn

Footage of a criminal stealing from "capture" car
An example of 'capture car' cameras filming a car thief

The economic downturn may be tempting people to risk buying stolen goods, a police force fears.

Gwent Police said it had noticed a rise in thefts from cars in the run-up to Christmas and was concerned people may be led into making dodgy purchases.

The force is urging people to register valuables on a website so items stolen could be returned to them more easily.

It is also targeting car criminals with more patrols, "capture cars" and number plate recognition camera equipment.

The month-long Operation Reunite was prompted after analysis of pre-Christmas crime figures had shown a surge in thefts from cars of electronic goods such as satellite navigation systems and audio equipment.

Gwent Police said the number of incidents recorded has risen from 371 in October to 480 in December.

Because so many items of this type of property is being stolen, there must be more than usual market for them
Gwent Police Inspector Terry Davies

Community Safety Inspector Terry Davies said: "We are concerned that the credit crunch may be leading more people to risk buying dodgy goods which could have been stolen, to save money.

"Our guess is that with the type of stuff being stolen, there may be more people inclined to buy cheaper goods and perhaps ask less questions than before.

"We know that lot of sat nav sytems are being stolen. They are becoming almost a necessary item to own.

"What we feel is that because so many items of this type of property is being stolen, there must be more than usual market for them."CPS:IMAGE ORDER="2">

He added stolen goods were much easier to return to their owners if they had been registered on, a property register used by all the UK's police forces.

Shoppers in the January sales were targeted with information on how to protect the goods they had just bought and how to sign up to the property register website.

Detectives will also be using capture cars, vehicles with goods inside them which attract thieves and video cameras to record the break-in, at key locations in the force area.

Raids are also planned on the homes or premises of suspects.

Insp Davies said: "There will be places and individuals in mind.

"There may be hot spots that need targeting. We will also act on evidence which suggests there are offender known to us which are responsible for these kind of crimes.

'Ready currency'

"There are people out there who are desperate for any cash. Criminals will look for signs of sat navs such as those moisture marks on the windscreen.

"For you to have your vehicle entered by a smashed window causes about 1,000 worth of disruption, in terms of the insurance, phone calls, getting a glazier, time off work, etc.

"The first line of defence is with the owner, to keep it out of sight and no leave valuables on view in their vehicle.

"Every single product is important to the owner, but it is ready currency for someone who wants to pinch that product."

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'Covert capture' cars launched
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