Essex Officer Brings Back IAATI Idea
At the time of writing this I was a Detective Constable employed by Essex Police on the stolen vehicle section within Police Headquarters and a relative newcomer to IAATI, I was introduced to the organisation by my long time friends Tony SIMMS and Alan TAYLOR, both of whom are very well known within and without IAATI. Having now served my 30 years I have now retired.
My main reasons for joining were to extend the contacts of like minded people whose everyday work revolves around all aspects of the investigation of motor vehicle crime and boy oh boy have I extended that contact list, this has been achieved both by personal contact and recommendation by my fellow members, but the mother of all methods of contacting your fellow investigators has to be attendance at one of IAATI’s excellent training seminars, held both here in the UK and at various locations throughout the world.
I was fortunate enough after the required pleading to my bosses at Essex Police to attend the Annual Training Seminar held this year in Vancouver British Columbia, Canada, apart from Tony SIMMS and Alan TAYLOR who stayed at conference for a few days I was the only Brit there, I was however completely taken under the wing of most of the delegates there almost as some sort of “mascot”, in particular I was looked after by my now good friend Larry BURDEN of the RCMP who expertise in all things Marine and excellent presentation has to be seen to be believed, Larry is a member of our sister organisation I.A.M.I. ( International Association of Marine Investigators).
It was my intention to make the most of my trip and to cram as much into the week as was humanly possible, the layout of the presentations and lectures was so well organised that it was impossible to miss out on any subject as it was repeated on another day and in another time slot.
The subject matter was so diverse and engaging and included “hands on” subject matter such as extensive identification and theft methods in relation to Harley Davidson and sports motorcycles, plant theft and recovery techniques, stolen cargoes, boat and engine thefts, forensic lock examination techniques and much more besides, all subjects that are dear to many of us in the world of Auto Theft investigation.
The presentation that most took my attention and imagination was presented by the Minneapolis Police Department and in particular Detective Sgt. Jolene LINDNER, the presentation revolved around the deployment of so called “bait” or “decoy” vehicles and the way Minneapolis Police addressed the problem of spiraling car crime in their city.
Doing the job I do I had been involved in small time projects akin to this in the past but never on the scale or with the radical approach used by Minneapolis, we had previously used what we referred to as “rat trap” vehicles, these being vehicles purchased by us and of the type frequently stolen, they were then deployed in high risk areas were disabled and watched by a squad of officers who basically pounced on the offender when the “bait” was taken, pretty hit or miss really and very manpower intensive, we had also deployed vehicles fitted with varying degrees of electronic tracking equipment, this met again with varying degrees of success.
The key to the success of the “Minneapolis” system was a manifold approach to the problem, after studying crime pattern analysis and the types of vehicles prevalently stolen and after consultation with attorneys, certain training and decision protocols were established and the scheme kicked into life.
Appropriate vehicles were procured by the department and fitted with technical tracking equipment designed specifically for Police use, not re-hashed parcel tracking kit, but state of the art global positioning electronic tracking equipment, with an added bonus in the form of total control of the vehicle ignition system, this gave the Police the ability at will to safely disable the vehicle, to close any central locking system, to record via video link and voice link all movements from within the vehicle, put this mix in place and you have one powerful auto theft prevention tool at your command.
These equipped vehicles were then put in place at selected auto theft “hotspots” and monitored by one operator who could monitor up to twelve different vehicles on a lap top computer. If the vehicle was subsequently stolen the operator recorded and observed the movements on the mapping system, local Police units were informed of the location of the vehicle and followed, not “pursued” the vehicle, if the offender took off in a hurry the vehicle was disabled, locked and the occupants arrested.
No fuss, no chasing, no danger to the public and no contest at court, not with video and conversation all recorded at the time, over two hundred arrests in eighteen months and a forty percent drop in car theft figures, howzat for cutting car crime!
The system was also accompanied by an extensive advertising campaign in local and national media, they actually told the public at large that “decoy” vehicles were operating in these areas and “steal one if you dare” and they did and they got caught!
It put the fear of crime back firmly where it belonged, in the mind of the car thief and not in the mind of the innocent shopper, and do you know what? Having bought back the idea to the U.K. Essex Police are mid way into a feasibility project for the adoption of the system here, hopefully going live in the new year.
So my membership of IAATI has thus far served me well and will hopefully do likewise for the people of Essex. I asked for the Canada trip and justified the visit to my bosses just as you can do, it doesn’t have to be Canada though it is always nice to see other parts of the world, any IAATI seminar in any place is worth attending, and you will come away with more than you went with I promise.
“A Partnership Approach to Vehicle Crime.”