London Met, Essex and Herts police forces work together in burglary crackdown

A SPIKE in burglaries in Stansted has prompted police to launch a two-day joint force operation – and the Reporter tagged along for the ride.

The village witnessed 15 burglaries across December and January with police believing that the culprits are travelling into the area to commit crimes before exiting via its “excellent road and rail links”.

In a bid to deter the bandits, Essex Police traffic officers were out alongside their compatriots from the London Met and Herts police forces for a major crackdown, while Chelmsford and Maldon ran a similar operation.

Armed with the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) machine, the aim was to catch criminals while sending out a clear message that crime will not be tolerated.

Sgt Colin Cox, who was in charge of the operation in Stansted, described the ANPR system as an “invaluable resource” and its style of policing as proactive.

Speaking to reporter Michael Edwards, who tagged along on the operation, he said: “If this leads to just one major arrest in the area then the whole exercise is invaluable. It is very effective in catching criminals.”

On Wednesday March 2 the operation saw officers stop and check 63 vehicles for various motoring offences on.

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A total of 12 fixed penalty tickets were issued, four tickets were given to drivers seen using mobile telephones, three were issued for illegally tinted windscreens, one for a faulty seat belt and one for a number plate offence. Another 47 drivers were given spoke to for minor traffic offences, 12 drivers were breath-tested and one vehicle was the subject of a prohibition notice for having a cracked windscreen and other faults.

Pc Deborah Gray Farrer, who organised the operation, said: “Road policing unit staff are committed to reducing the number of fatal and serious injury collision on our roads. Our role is to actively work with partnerships such as parish councils and road safety officers to identify hot spot areas and then put an operation into place to tackle the identified problems.

“This has proven very successful in Essex with recent activity directed around areas where the local neighbourhood action panels have identified a road policing priority.”

ANPR works alongside a number of other central computers and is linked to the Police National Computer (PNC) and the DVLA database. Scanning hundreds, if not thousands, of number plates every hour, the three-way system can alert officers if a vehicle is on the road with no insurance or tax.

It will also note if the car is wanted in connection with a nother crime anywhere else in the country – which is why working alongside neighbouring forces is so important.

“The Met and Herts forces decided to run their operations over Tuesday and Wednesday so we had to do the same to catch people who would leave those areas and come here to commit crime,” explains Sgt Cox.

“We have Stansted Mountfitchet station which has good access to Audley End and London, as well as good road links in the M11 and A120.”

He added: “All the data from the PNC is downloaded to our ANPR in the morning and all the information picked up during the operation is then transferred to the PNC at the end. Even if a car has not been involved in a crime yet, the ANPR will record where it is had been and through the network we would be able to track its movements.”

In spite of having the latest computer technology at the police’s disposal, Sgt Cox stressed that the biggest tool in the force’s possession in the fight against crime is information.

“We need to forge those partnerships again,” said Sgt Cox. “The public are so often the ones who point us in the right direction. Crimestoppers is the best way to let the police know if there is anything suspicious.”

Crimestoppers offers a �1000 reward to those who hand the police information that leads to a conviction – and the caller can be anonymous should they wish. The number is 0800 555 111.

• For more information of how to make property safe call Uttlesford’s crime reduction adviser Peter Caulfield on 0300 333 4444.