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Burglars made to wear GPS tags in world-first scheme to crack down on ‘neighbourhood’ crimes

Written by on 17 March 2021

Burglars, thieves and robbers released from prison will be made to wear GPS tags to track their movements in a world first scheme aimed at cracking down on neighbourhood criminals.

More than half of those convicted of theft and burglary reoffend within a year and nearly 80% of cases result in no suspect being identified.

The government says the tags will be a vital extra source of intelligence to help police catch persistent offenders.

“These people, while they are on license for up to 12 months, will be monitored 24 hours a day,” Kit Malthouse, minister for crime and policing said.

“We’ll know exactly where they are at all times.

“By monitoring their movements, we can both drive down that impulse to reoffend and, if they do reoffend, allow the police to catch up with them much more quickly, because they’ll know exactly if they were at the scene of the crime at the time.”

Toni Antoni was left devastated when his deli in Didsbury, Manchester, was burgled four years ago.

Thieves used a crowbar to break open the door before stealing iPads, bottles of wine and cash from the register.

“Police said that they were pretty sure that they knew who the suspects were because there’s been a lot of repeat burglaries in the area,” he said.

“But unfortunately they have to catch them in the act in order to charge them, and on that evening they were not caught.”

The police told Toni Antoni that whoever burgled his deli was probably a repeat offender Image: The police told Toni Antoni that whoever burgled his deli was probably a repeat offender

Under the new rules, burglars, robbers and thieves that have served a prison sentence of a year or more will be automatically fitted with a tag on release, allowing their whereabouts to be monitored by GPS satellites 24 hours a day, for up to 12 months.

National Police Chief’s Council Electronic Monitoring Lead, deputy chief constable Jon Stratford said: “It provides a strong deterrent and means officers will be able to quickly arrest and gather evidence against anyone suspected of being involved in a robbery, burglary or other theft.”

Police and HM Prison and Probation Service staff can investigate whether those on the tags have been in the vicinity of recent burglaries, thefts and robberies.

The scheme launches in six police forces (Avon and Somerset, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Gwent, Humberside and West Midlands) on 12 April and it is estimated 250 offenders will be tagged in the first six months.

It will then be extended to a further 13 areas in September.

Criminal defence solicitor Nick Freeman says it could be a waste of tax payers’ money.

“The technology isn’t fool proof, burglars are very adept at working their way around it,” he said.

“Also, the tag is visible. It may be a badge of honour, or it may be a stigma. People may be ashamed of walking around the streets with a tag on because it’s actually highlighting that someone is a criminal.”

The government say it hopes the system will reduce the estimated £4.8bn burden such crimes place on the taxpayer every year.