Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Saturday, 10 October 2009 09:26 UK

Caught red-handed by covert car

By Carl Yapp
BBC News

The satellite tracking system
The satellite tracking system is proving a success, according to police

I placed the stolen loot in my car and I was off, but my brief career as a criminal was over in a matter of minutes.

Fortunately, my brush with the law was staged managed by Dyfed-Powys Police, who wanted to illustrate how a new piece of satellite tracking technology was helping to cut car crime.

I was caught red-handed by officers using a device called Covert Capture Car.

It is designed to catch criminals who target cars and possessions left inside.

Both the police-owned car and the possessions are attached with a tracking device, and when someone tampers with them they alert police, who can then track their movements via computer.

Sgt Kelvin Briggs
The initiative has a two-pronged approach - to catch people committing auto crime and to deter potential offenders
Sgt Kelvin Briggs, Dyfed-Powys Police

For obvious reasons, officers are reluctant to reveal the make and model of the car, but it's an average, ordinary-looking vehicle that is left unattended in crime hotspots.

It took the police just over 10 minutes to find me parked on an unclassified road in Powys.

I'd made off with some items attached with a tiny tracker, but within minutes my collar was felt and I was at a police station.

Police had traced my movements on a computer from the police station and once I'd come to a halt they sent a car to hunt me down.

Laptops to chainsaws

Covert Capture Car is proving such a success that officers plan to use the technology to track all sorts of items - from laptops to chainsaws and quad bikes.

Sgt Kelvin Briggs, who is working on the project, said Dyfed-Powys was one of only four in Britain using the technology.

He said it was a similar to an in-car satellite navigation system, which is found in millions of vehicles around the UK.

"The initiative has a two-pronged approach - to catch people committing auto crime and to deter potential offenders," said Sgt Briggs.

"This coupled with our regular deployment of roads policing and neighbourhood policing teams will help us to bring offenders to justice and make our communities even safer.

"We have items [with a tracker] that we can place in a vehicle or we can put them in an area that is subject to a particular type of crime.

"It can be a vehicle, but it can also be, say, an office block or schools or any vulnerable places where items are being stolen.

"When they are taken we can then track them, see who's involved in the theft of those items, see who's involved in the handling of those items and recover them at a time when we think it's appropriate."

'More sophisticated'

Sgt Briggs said there had been a fall in crime where Covert Capture Car had been used.

"Where we've used it, in particular Ystradgynlais, we've seen a 50% decrease in theft from motor vehicles over the same period last year, so we see this as a very useful tool against crime."

Police are now looking at expanding the project.

"Initially, we took the project in response to car crime, but since then we've been able to find out more about the technology," added Sgt Briggs.

"The technology is moving very quickly and becoming more sophisticated.

"There are other applications we could use it for that we didn't envisage at the start. We have plans to expand the use of it next year."

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