Police to pose as burglars in the middle of the night in bid to cut break-ins

Daily Mail | February 11, 2010
By Jaya Narain

If you awoke in the dead of night and saw a suspicious character trespassing on your property trying your windows and doors you would assume it was a burglar and immediately call the police.

But residents may be in for a shock for the dark-clad figure trying your car door may in fact be a police officer.

Officers are posing as burglars to test the windows and doors of homes in a campaign to improve security.

And if they find an open door or window they will drag sleepy residents from their beds in order to inform them.

The move is part of a new initiative called Operation Golden which aims to slash burglary rates in Macclesfield in Cheshire.

Police say almost 40 per cent of all burglars gain access through and insecure window or door and have launched the operation to cut crime.

But last night the force was condemned by who said the move could cause alarm and increase the fear of crime, especially among the elderly.

One 82-year-old resident, who did not want to be named, said: 'If they're not careful the police will end up arresting their own officers.

'It's going to get very confusing for them. I'm sure this silly scheme will prove very unpopular and will be stopped.

'If I got a knock on my door at 1am I'd tell whoever was there where to get off and I wouldn't be polite about it.'

Resident Adrian Dodd, 42, said: 'I think it is preposterous. It is all well and good advising people but you can't come trespassing on property in the dead of night and waking people up. Someone will have a heart attack.

'Obviously the police want to clamp down on burglaries but the operation should be restricted to daylight hours.'

Inspector Gareth Woods said the operation would be in effect from 4pm until 2am but admitted some residents will not be happy about the early-hour wake-up call.

Insp Woods, who is heading up the operation in Macclesfield, said: 'If weíre told to get lost then thatís a risk we take. Itís a difficult balance to strike.

'The bottom line is officers get a mixed reception when doing anything like this, but I would say to any of my officers that if they see an insecure car or house to let the owner know no matter what time of day or night.

'Most reasonable people will say thanks for letting them know and are grateful. Obviously we will be very discreet and wonít be trying every door in the town because that's impossible. We will target areas where we have intelligence and know burglaries will be happening.'

Householders who fall foul of their checks will be told: 'If we had been burglars, by now you would have lost cash, valuables such as a laptop or an iPod, sentimental items such as jewellery and possibly the car off your drive!'

Officers and police community support officers are also distributing thousands of door hanger cards which list security checks to be carried out before anyone leaves home.

Chief Inspector Peter Crowcroft said: 'There are burglars who specialise in sneak-ins. They walk around streets, nipping in and out of gardens and trying doors until they find one unlocked.

'Most of them donít care if anyone is in the house. Even if the family is in the next room watching television or eating, the criminal will walk into the kitchen or hallway, grab a bag, purse, or some other item of value and be out again in seconds.

These burglaries can be avoided by locking the door. Operation Golden is about raising the profile of security at home and keeping people safe.'

Last year a 38-year-old woman from Hove in East Sussex was stunned when she walked into her lounge to find a PCSO clambering through her window.

The woman, who did not want to be named, was then given a stern lecture by the officer on home security.

'She had clambered through my living room window and started lecturing me about crime prevention. I thought it was a bit much really, but it did make me think.'