Author Archives: CambsCops

The most violating crime and how it feels

Burglary Door greyed

Burglary is one of the most violating types of crime anyone can experience.

I’ve been a police officer – both in uniform and CID roles – for more than 15 years. What I am about to tell you is taken from not one case, but many incidents down the years.

First of all there is the shock.

It’s more common for someone to get burgled when they’re not at home so often we’re at the scene before the victim. The owner will arrive and step gingerly through their own front door – scared of what they are going to see, frightened and apprehensive about what has been stolen.

Many times they will immediately notice that something precious has gone. Sometimes they’ll be surprised – “they didn’t take the TV? And the laptop is still there?”

They’ll scan the address. A victim may look at it and feel like their home has been ransacked. Furniture might be overturned.

Broken glass is usually found where the point of entry has been identified. A window or a glazed door broken, perhaps with a tool from the garden.

You can see the victim, who has a shocked expression, suddenly piecing together every point of weakness in their home, all the self-blame kicking in. The hedges are too high. If only we had a security light. I wish we’d had a camera.

None of this is fair of course. You try to reassure them. It’s not their fault.

Picking through the house delicately you try to ascertain as much as possible, while leaving it undisturbed for a forensic evaluation. “Can I sit down?” the victim might say – in their own home. For that moment – and probably for an extended period afterwards, it doesn’t feel the same. Not like their own home at all.

The children’s toys have been moved. Perhaps a five pound note that came in a birthday card has been taken. It is the small things like that that are really grievous. “They even took the children’s money”.

Venturing upstairs the victim finds the offender has emptied out the wardrobe, the draws, piles of belongings are topsy-turvy on the bed. The jewellery is gone.

Often one partner has come home and the other partner is still away somewhere at work. They exchange nervous and distressing phone calls. Sometimes you can tell the victim wants to cry, but they don’t want to cry in front of the police. Sometimes the victim is simply too shocked and you have to walk them through it one step at a time. “How will I explain it to the kids?” is a rhetorical question often thrown out into the room.

The house-to-house enquiries are done. The crime report has been completed. Forensics have been and gone. “Are you going to be ok?” – the police officer is friendly and genuinely concerned. “We’ll get area patrols to come by your house during the night.”

“Yes I’m fine” [the victim is not fine] but thinks, “I wonder if they took my spare key? Will they come back?”Then the address is left alone – all the police and forensic people leave – and the victim stays at home. It is very unusual that the victim will get any sleep that night. Maybe not for a few nights.  

For weeks and months afterwards that victim will be on edge, worried about being at home alone. Worried about leaving the house empty when they go to work. They start to contemplate exaggerated security measures like a massive number of cameras, expensive alarms, and guard dogs – perhaps now feeling that they would like to take every step to give them peace of mind. Some people contemplate putting the house on the market because they’ll never look at it in the same way.

Perhaps the offender stole the victim’s wallet or purse – they got enough bank details to spend some money on cards. The upheaval then begins of calling credit card providers, the bank need to send out new debit cards, identifying legitimate purchases.

Then there is the thought – the angry thought – of that person out there who did this – “maybe they still have my dad’s watch on them right now” – “I wish I could get my hands on them”. Of course this isn’t the victim’s fault. Although, in the same measure, there are steps we can take to help that victim to not fall victim again.

Before this happens we can really struggle to get people to pay attention to this. After a burglary it’s all the victim can think about. We don’t want people to ignore it, but we don’t want people to be obsessed with it either.

We talk about property marking, we talk about additional door security. We talk about affordable window alarms. We discuss whether lowering the hedge row would help to put a would-be offender off. We talk about CCTV and how much more affordable camera technology has become. We discuss having lights on timers, and not leaving the house in darkness. A security light at the back wouldn’t cost a great deal. Sadly for so many people who are paying attention to this advice – we are locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Like every crime, if you are better protected than the houses surrounding you – you are not likely to be the victim. Unless the pay-off promises to be huge, why would the offender work in a clearly illuminated environment, overlooked, negotiating window alarms and CCTV?

This is the real cost of burglary – the traumatic feelings, coping with the aftermath, the sense of insecurity, the anger of having a stranger in your home. If I could reach out to one person through this to persuade them to take the appropriate steps that prevent them from becoming a victim of this type of crime, it has been worth the time it took to write.

You can find out more by visiting or website burglary pages

Sergeant Phil Priestley

Now see burglary from an offender’s viewpoint

 

Inside the mind of a burglar

Op Aware cropped.png

I am a burglar, it’s what I do. Houses, sheds, garages. I’m not bothered what I break into, as long as there’s something to steal and I don’t get caught. I’ve been caught before, a few times and I’ve been to prison. I didn’t like jail and I don’t want to go back there, but I’m a burglar, it’s what I do.

What am I looking for you may ask? Easy targets, I don’t want to spend ages trying to get in to a house and not managing it, and I don’t want to get caught, so if there’s someone at home I’ll go to the house where there’s nobody. That house over there looks like an easy target, there’s a nice high hedge which I can hide behind and nobody can see me from the road and wonder what I’m up to. There’s no car on the drive and the curtains are open. The lights are all off and it’s nine o’clock at night, they must all be out, but for how long? I might come back tomorrow and see if it’s the same, they’re probably on holiday.

I really don’t want to bump into anyone in the house, I don’t want anyone calling the police on me. Some people are getting too clever nowadays and trying to fool us by making their house look like they’re in when they’re not. Putting things like timers on their lights and these devices that flash and make it look like there’s a telly on in the house. Well they put me off. If I’m not sure I can’t take the risk. I’ll go somewhere else.

The places I really avoid are those that have alarms and CCTV. If someone has gone to the trouble of putting those in they really have protected their house and I reckon they will also have made sure that the locks on the doors and windows are strong. Even worse if they’ve got locked gates so I can’t get around the back of the house.

I really hate those busybody Neighbourhood Watch types. Are they trying to gang up on me or something? I hate it when people are looking out of their windows and watching what I’m up to, signs and stickers advertising Neighbourhood Watch really put me off. Dogs don’t bother me though. I’m ok with dogs and anyone who thinks that just because they’ve got a big dog they don’t even need to lock their doors has got another thing coming.

Sometimes I’ll just try my luck and walk up to doors and try them. If they aren’t locked, bonus, I’ll just walk in and help myself. If there’s someone there I’ll make up a rubbish excuse, something like “Sorry, I thought this was my mate John’s house” and walk away.

Usually though I have to break in, I do that by prising the window or door with the short crow bar that I carry down my trousers. It’s difficult to prise open a door or a window with a load of dead locks on it. Easy though if they’ve left the key in the door – just break the glass and turn the key.

I’ll nick anything but I really want stuff that I can get rid of easily; jewellery and cash mainly, and I know where to find them. They’re in the master bedroom. People put them there because they think they are safe. They think “If we get broken into, they won’t be able to steal our jewellery because they’ll wake us up if they try to get into our bedroom”. Well I’m not going to break in while you’re at home am I?

Sometimes, if I can’t get into the house I’ll have a look in the shed, it’s amazing what people will leave in there. I stole a bike the other day and got £300 for it. I reckon it was really worth two grand but some people want big discounts if the stuff’s stolen. But all the shed had on it was a cheap padlock. I can’t believe it sometimes. People will spend two grand on a bike, then stick it in a shed with a £5 padlock. Easy meat for the pair of bolt croppers I’ve got in my coat.

My life is getting harder though. The police keep on telling people to make sure they have good locks on their doors and join Neighbourhood Watch. Whatever next, anyone would think that they didn’t want to get their houses burgled.

This article is not the words of one burglar but of many. It is written from genuine conversations with experienced detectives that have interviewed many burglars and these are the things they have told them.

Between us we can beat the burglars. For more information please visit our website

Andy Street

Police Sergeant

 

“You can carry a knife and be lucky and never have to use it but how do you know you won’t. You don’t.”

As a child my son Andrew had a fascination with taking things apart and putting them back together. He once filled a lawnmower with petrol and accidentally set it alight. He did a lot of things like that I knew one day might land him in trouble but what happened to him on 8th January was not one of my worries.

Andrew Hasler 7

Andrew celebrating his birthday

 

Andrew 12

Heights were never a problem for Andrew

 

 

I last saw Andrew alive on Christmas Eve 2016 when he was telling me how he had fallen off a ladder. What he didn’t tell me before was that he was two storeys high and had been hanging by his finger tips and it was only thanks to someone seeing him on CCTV that he was rescued! This was typical of Andrew, he had no fear. He was a helpful, kind natured, generous young man.

 

 

 

 

It was Sunday lunchtime when I was sitting in the local coffee shop ordering some lunch when I received a message out of the blue from one of Andrew’s friends asking me to get in touch. I knew instantly that something wasn’t right and then couldn’t get hold of the friend or Andrew.

I remember sitting there eating my lunch but not really wanting it at all and not knowing what to do.

I eventually spoke to Andrew’s neighbour who told me there were police and ambulance outside his home. With that I called the local police station and hospital but couldn’t get any information.

I went home and waited and watched every single car as it passed the window and then I saw the police car arrive. I had the front door open ready and I remember saying ‘I’m not going to like what you tell me’.

They told me Andrew was dead.

Andrew Hasler 1

I didn’t believe it, even though I knew deep down, long before they’d arrived that it was true.

I went through the motions calling his father, his brother, my parents. I just remember saying ‘he’s dead’. I didn’t know what had happened.

When the family liaison officer arrived one of the first things I remember is her telling me that Andrew was an innocent victim. I was very shocked that in that small space of time they knew there were defence wounds.

From that point I was running on autopilot. Things needed to be done. I had a funeral to arrange. The money I had hoped to spend on his wedding one day would now be spent on his funeral.

To be told later that your son stepped in to save someone else – one minute you are proud and the next you are asking yourself why he did that? He could still be here. At the same time you know that there was never going to be a happy ending for someone and you wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Andrew was stabbed 17 times but it was only one that killed him and the woman he was protecting was lucky that one of her 15 stab wounds missed her heart by just centimetres.

It’s still not real. I still expect him to knock on the door. I go and visit Andrew’s grave but I don’t know what to say to him so I play music. It’s not something I ever thought I would have to do.

I remember being in the supermarket and suddenly it hit me that I was in the shop where the knives were bought. I remember trying to avoid the knife section but also wondering what kind of knife it was. Then at the checkout I wanted to ask why he was sold them. Who would expect a 40-year-old to be buying three knives with that intention?

I have to do something positive for Andrew. He fought to save someone’s life and lost his. If just one person hands in a knife or chooses not to carry one then that could save someone’s life.

Think about the consequences.  Do you want to face 25 years – possibly the best years of your life – in prison?

Think about the parents, brothers, sisters, family, friends, the whole community. No parent should ever have to bury their child. I know it happens through illness but something that’s as needless as this, it shouldn’t happen.

What would your parents and family say? They’ll lose you and have to live with the consequences that you killed someone.

You can carry a knife and be lucky and never have to use it but how do you know you won’t. You don’t.

Helen Fazier

“Knife crime takes more than one life, it takes us all.”

“James was a good baby, a happy child. At school he was brilliant at gymnastics and had potential to go far but decided that it wasn’t the right thing for him and we supported that. It didn’t stop him showing off his muscles at every opportunity though. He was always in the garden doing handstands and would regularly go to the gym.

James (standing) and brother Luke

James (standing) and his brother Luke

 

James doing handstand

James showing off his talents in the garden

“When he was 17, James found his first love and moved all the way to the Lake District to be with her. They had a son, Leon, who is now eight. The relationship with his girlfriend wasn’t meant to be and about four years ago James moved back home but any opportunity he got, he would be back visiting Leon. He loved being a dad, it’s what he lived for.

 

James and Leon

James and son Leon

 

“James took up painting and decorating but also had a passion for cooking and had started getting into catering. He would always be helping me out in the kitchen, and made a brilliant gravy for the Sunday roast.

“Friday, 30th June last year started out as just a normal day. James spoke to his son Leon in the morning and went off to work. Each Friday pretty much followed the same routine for James. He’d come home, have a shower and some dinner and then go out to party – like any young person would. This day was no different. He went out as usual but popped back about 9pm to get a jumper and I remember telling him not to be noisy when he got home as I was looking after my other grandson.

“It was about 10:45pm when one of his friends started knocking at the door. I was shaking my head thinking that he was mucking about but he insisted I open the door and speak to him. When I did, he told me that James was in Stretton Avenue, that police and ambulance were there and he was being resuscitated. I screamed up the stairs to my partner who rushed down there but they wouldn’t let anyone through, he could see it was not looking good.

“When I got to the hospital we were told that the doctors had been working on him for over an hour but he had died. I was in shock. I’d only seen James two hours previously. That night we all just cried all night.

 

James, Linda and Luke

James, his mum Linda and brother Luke

 

“The police came round in the morning but everything was just a haze. We’d been told that James had been stabbed in the heart. This just doesn’t happen, not to normal people like us.

“Then we had to face the trial and re-live how he died in great detail. At least we have some sort of justice and James can rest in peace.

“Leon misses his dad so much, we all miss him, it’s an unbearable pain. There’s not a day, probably even a minute that goes by that I don’t think about him. Sometimes I go to the spot where he fell and lay flowers, we also have a plaque in the garden because he loved being outside.

 

James memorial

A memorial left by James’ grandparents

 

“If Ali hadn’t of been carrying a knife then chances are there would’ve been a scuffle of some sort but no one would’ve died and James would be here today.

“The family of Ali might not be able to get their heads around their son being a murderer but at least he’s alive and they can visit him. All we get to see is a cemetery.

“Knife crime takes more than one life, it takes us all. If you chose to carry a knife there will be no winners, just losers.”

Linda Hall

Working together to tackle hare coursing

Throughout the autumn and winter one of the local issues that police have received the most calls about is hare coursing. For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about; hare coursing is where dogs are used to chase hares for sport and is illegal under the Hunting Act of 2004 and the Game Act of 1831. Aside from the obvious cruelty issues there are many other factors which make this a problem with which we need to get to grips.

It is often the case that the hare coursers will be in gangs coming from various parts of the country, they are always very determined to carry out their pursuit and will stop at nothing do so. They will often drive across fields of newly set crops, often causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and threatening anyone that challenges them. It is fair to say that these gangs have caused a great deal of fear and intimidation in the rural community.

I know that some people don’t have a lot of sympathy for the farmers but the fact is that by damaging their crops these offenders are damaging their livelihoods. I have known of cases where the coursers have driven straight through the farmyard to get onto a field and when asked not to do so have responded with threats of violence, some have even threatened to burn down the farmer’s home.

When living in an isolated area it’s no wonder that some of the rural community feel intimidated by this.

Cambridgeshire Police have set up a Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) to help to deal with this and other rural crime related problems but they are only a small team and have to cover the entire county. Very often when the calls come in it is the local officers that have to attend and we aren’t always best equipped to deal with the problem.

The coursers are always in 4x4s and it’s difficult to catch them on fields and muddy droves when driving a front wheel drive patrol car. This is why we have to work together and we need you the public to be vigilant. If you this see this taking place please call the police. Note down registration numbers and descriptions of vehicles.

Sharing the intelligence is something that can have a great deal of advantages. It gives us an early warning system of what and who to look out for. There have been recent examples when we have shared these details with other counties and on occasions they have stopped some of the vehicles and found that they are being driven illegally and even by a person wanted for burglary.

Over the past couple of weeks, in my area we have had some successes in catching and deterring the hare coursers. On 7th January a vehicle was seized by police in Somersham after having its tyres punctured by a stinger and the occupant was caught. On 14th January four people were arrested for coursing in Warboys and their vehicle was seized.

Seized coursers Vehicle 1_.jpg

But rather than just reacting when they are here we want to try to stop them coming at all. The RCAT are pursuing civil court injunctions in order to stop known offenders from coming here and giving us greater powers to deal with them when they do.
Very often we concentrate most of our resources in the towns but I’d like to reassure the rural community that we will do our best to keep you safe as well.

Sergeant Andy Street
St. Ives and Ramsey Neighbourhood Policing Team

“Applying to become a Special was the best thing I ever did”

Pic for blog

Special Sergeant Adam Barnwell, 30, has been stationed at Parkside Police Station in Cambridge since August 2010. He is a web developer at a large and successful games company in Cambridge.

I chose to apply because I’d spent the majority of my education improving my web development skills and felt I had a career but I still wanted to do something in law enforcement and contribute to the community.

It felt like a perfect middle ground for me. Training consisted of a mixture of classroom and practical training sessions which were designed to fit around my day job for just over three months. I learnt an incredible amount that I simply wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t signed up to be an officer.

The sessions included topics such as law, community engagement, defence techniques, software training and equipment handling, to name but a few. After many hours spent wrestling my peers to the floor and taking exams, I was invited to a passing out ceremony with my peers. The ceremony was chaired by a Cambridgeshire magistrate and my family arrived to witness me take my vow and attest. I received my warrant card and my certificate and became a fully warranted police officer. I was extremely proud as it felt like all my hard work over many months had paid off, but, as I was soon to realise, my training had only just begun.

I had a new supervisor – a Special sergeant with six years of service behind him – and after a tour of Parkside, I went out on my very first shift with a group of new Specials from my training course. We went out on foot in Sydney Street, Cambridge, stopping private vehicles from contravening the emergency vehicles, taxis and bus route through the one-way system. This was my first taste of conflict as the majority of drivers got irate at the amount of time the police had taken from them and they were being fined. It was a real trial by fire. A week or so previously I had been sitting in a classroom learning about various conflict resolution models and now I was putting it into very real practice. Under the watchful eye of my supervisor, I issued 15 tickets and spent four hours ‘on the beat’.

My next milestone was my first 999 response. I was crewed with a regular officer and just as briefing finished we received a job from the control room. They said a caller could hear screams from next door. Before I knew it my partner was racing through Cambridge city and out into rural Cambridgeshire with blue lights and sirens going, navigating around traffic and going through red lights. Everything felt unnatural as we drove on the wrong side of the road for the majority of our journey to avoid traffic and through red lights. I immediately understood how fast it seemed from inside the car in comparison to how it looked from outside and as I was pumped so full of adrenaline I missed a lot of what the control room was relaying and didn’t let go of my death grip on the door handle until we arrived.

Over the next six months I worked my way through a development portfolio that every officer must complete to show they are competent at dealing with the majority of situations, under the instruction of a tutor. During this time I contributed hundreds of hours and dealt with missing person cases, burglaries, sudden deaths, drink driving, arrests, domestic abuse, assault, injured members of the public, firearms offences, theft, robbery, offensive weapons, to name a few. I was also given the opportunity to crew with a dog handler and his dog Troy, donned a flight suit and went up in the police helicopter over Cambridge and was attached to the CSI unit and dusted for fingerprints and shoe impressions after a burglary.

After my first year I had accrued roughly 500 hours’ service and had learnt so much. I had dealt with more than I ever had imagined and overcome situations I certainly wouldn’t have been able to as a regular member of the public. Over the next year, I received training to become part of a police support unit, more commonly known as ‘riot police’, which involved use of a riot baton and deploying a cordon. With this training, I attended the English Defence League (EDL) protests in Luton and was in amongst the police horses and protesters. I also started undercover operations to tackle shoplifters during Christmas shopping.

During my third year I was one of the officers lining the route for the Olympic torch and protected VIPs as they travelled to the games in London. I made the biggest drugs bust of my career to date whilst on patrol with another Special, taking £10,000 worth of cocaine off the streets, and I received personal thanks from the Chief Constable.

In my fourth year I was able to accomplish something I had wanted to do for a very long time: I was given a seat on the constabulary’s response driving course. The waiting list is years long so it was a real honour to be considered. I got two weeks off work from my employer and for two weeks, between 8am and 6pm daily, I was taught the skills needed to drive emergency vehicles in emergency conditions. It was a long, tiring and mentally gruelling course where one mistake could be fatal. There were written and practical exams every other day and a final verification run at the end of the two weeks where you are told if you have passed or not. I passed with high marks, which made me extremely proud and very grateful for the opportunity.

Just over seven years in and I’m still doing it. I’ve received the standard three month training plus extra training in areas including counter terrorism, basic driving permit, policing of football events, PSU (riot) policing, fingerprint systems, intelligence submission, property management, legal powers and policy, defence techniques, first aid, CPR, speed detection laser devices, initial actions at major crime scenes, CSI, international warrants and leadership training.

No shift is the same, every incident throws a new curve ball your way and you have an excellent team of regular and Special officers backing you up every step of the way. I have an understanding with my employer that if there’s an emergency and numbers are needed, I can deploy and can leave work and start earlier by a few hours on certain occasions to assist with policing responsibilities. If you’re on the fence, I would suggest you apply to come on a ride along. If you’re thinking of applying, I suggest you do so without hesitation as it’s the best thing I ever did.

More on becoming a Special here https://goo.gl/V5gE45

 

Result of Huntingdonshire bike theft survey

During the summer, Cambridgeshire Constabulary ran an on-line survey in the Huntingdonshire District to gather information from people who had been victims of bicycle thefts in the previous 12 months.

The intention was to see if any patterns emerge that will help both the police and the public, so that crime prevention advice can be targeted more precisely in relation to places, times, and any other factors that appear to be significant in the theft of bicycles.

There are 5 key messages that we would like to highlight:

• Most bike thefts happen at your own home – including from the garden, shed or garage;

• In one third of cases, the bikes were not locked;

• In nearly a third of cases the stolen bike was a very expensive item, worth £500 or more;

• Bike thefts peak in the summer months of June, July and August;

• Three-quarters of bike theft victims have since taken steps to improve their bike security, such as by using better quality bike locks, but also through other common-sense actions like making sure shed or garage doors are kept locked.

The following graphs show the results of the survey:

Location of Theft:

Graph 1

Over a third of bike thefts are from your own home.

In Which Town or Village was the Bike Stolen?

Graph 2

Not surprisingly, most thefts occur in the three main towns in the District: Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives. If the survey had included Cambridge city, the number of thefts there would have dwarfed the other towns and villages: there are typically over 2,000 bike thefts in Cambridge every year.

Was The Bike Locked When It Was Stolen?

Graph 3

In a third of cases, the bike had been left unlocked. Bikes should always be locked to an immovable object whenever they are left unattended, including when they are put away in a shed or garage at home.

What Quality of Lock or Other Security Was Fitted to the Bike?

Graph 4
Police recommend that the quality of the security should reflect the value of the item. If you have a very valuable bike, you need to spend a lot more on its security than you would on a cheap old bone-rattler. Two different types of lock are normally best: a D-lock and a good quality cable or chain with a padlock.

What Was The Bike Locked To?

Graph 5

 

It is always best to secure the bike tightly to an immovable object so that it cannot easily be moved. Make sure the two locks catch the bike frame as well as both wheels and the solid object you are locking it to. Locking it to itself is really no good at all – it can be just lifted and carried away.

What was the Approximate Value of the Bike?

Graph 6

 

Nearly a third of stolen bikes are worth £500 or more, and half are worth more than £300.
When Did the Theft Happen?

Graph 7

Afternoons, evenings and night-time are when most thefts occur.

Graph 9

There seems to be a steady decline in the number of thefts as the week progresses, with Mondays being the worst.

Graph 8

The summer months of June, July and August are the peak period for bike thefts.

Did You Replace The Stolen Bike?

Graph 10

 

It is sad to see that a third of people didn’t replace their stolen bike – it indicates that their life-style was affected by the theft and the bike was no longer an important part of their routine, whether it was used for commuting, weekends out in the countryside, or just popping down to the shops.

Was The Replacement Bike…

Graph 11

 

It seems that most replacements are on a like-for-like basis, although some people trade up and some trade down…

Have You Invested in Better Security for Your Bike?

Graph 12

 

It is good to see that three-quarters of people improve their bike security after having experienced a theft.

How Have You Improved Your Bike Security?

Graph 13

Better locks are always a good idea, ideally two: a good quality D-Lock and a robust cable or chain with a padlock. But doing the obvious things is important too, such as locking shed or garage doors. ‘Advanced Security’ methods such as installing CCTV and motion sensors at your home are also an option.

Have You Changed Your Cycling Habits in Any Way?

Graph 14

A lot of people do change their cycling habits after a bike theft, but not always in a good way.

How Have You Changed Your Cycling Habits?

Graph 15

It is sad to see that quite a few people use their bikes less as a result of a theft, but other changes are for the better, such as taking greater care of the bike and the things in it or on it.

ADVICE ON HOW TO PROTECT YOUR BIKE

You can do a lot to reduce the chances of your bike being stolen and to protect the investment that you have made in it.

There is lots of advice on the new Cambridgeshire Constabulary website at:

https://www.cambs.police.uk/information-and-services/Cycle-crime.aspx