On the trail of the Christmas opportunist

Reporter:

Rob Bellis

FOR an opportunist thief, there are rich pickings to be had at this time of year.

With expensive gifts under the tree, homes and properties can become all the more inviting for a burglar who cares little that it is the season of goodwill.

You may think that your property is safe but stories of family’s having their Christmas ruined frequently appear on the pages of this newspaper.

Few of us expect to be the victim of such a crime but the fact is that it does happen.
North Wales Police is calling on residents not to make a gift of their presents and have issued a guide on how to keep homes safe.

Divisional Crime Reduction Manager, Ifan Hughes, who supports officers in being pro-active about preventing crime before it happens, explains: “In the main, you are safe in your house, you will not be attacked, you will not have your things stolen.

Most crimes are carried out by opportunists not professionals.

“As we are approaching Christmas Eve and people will have far more gifts in their houses and in their cars. Be careful, be mindful when you are carrying gifts in – try not to leave them on show put them in the boot. Don’t leave them in the car overnight. if it can be seen it can be stolen. Don’t leave anything on show and the opportunist will go elsewhere.

“In the home, remember that a massive open window is an invitation to a thief. You don’t want to leave that window open and wake up in the morning to find that someone has stolen all your Christmas gifts.”

There are many ways to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime and North Wales Police are working on a number of ongoing initiatives aimed at reducing theft and burglaries.

The force, in partnership with Neighbourhood Watch and other agencies are continuing to roll out a programme aimed at clamping down on cold callers who could prey on the vulnerable and elderly.

They are also offering residents ways of marking their property so that it can be easily recovered in the event that it is stolen.

These include UV pens which can be used to write your house number and postcode on items and Smartwater a sophisticated solution that can be used to permanently mark household property and is as unique as DNA.

Human DNA is one of the many clues that Crime Scene Investigators might find when they are conducting a forensic survey of the scene of a crime.

Bob Hewiitt, who is based in Mold and is one of four senior investigators within North Wales’ CSI team, and his colleague, investigator Lynne Swombow, showed the Leader how they would go about investigating the scene of a burglary.

“North Wales is a very safe place to live,” he said. “The core function of what we do is investigating burglaries – burglary dwelling and burglary non dwelling as well as vehicle crime.”

Bob explained that scene preservation is paramount.

“Ideally, we want to be attending the scene as soon as possible after the event has been reported,” he continued. “It’s important that, if people are a victim of crime, once they have called the police, they leave everything alone. When we are examining items, the last person we want to have touched them is the offender.”

Fingerprint examination is still a vital part of what we do and we have a variety of fingerprinting powders we can use depending on the surface. Then there’s fragile trace evidence - fibres, hair etc.

“Then there’s DNA – our genetic make up, a chemical found in the nucleus of every cell in every part of our body.

“We have the opportunity to recover DNA even if the offender is wearing gloves.”

Through prevention and detection, North Wales Police are working hard to ensure that ‘heartless thieves’ don’t ruin Christmas. But there are a number of ways that we can help:

Home Security
- Keep doors and windows locked at all times.
- Leaving presents under the tree in full view from the outside can attract the attention of thieves.
- If you are storing larger items such as bikes in the garden shed, ensure the door is locked.
- Make a note of the frame numbers of new cycles and the serial numbers of new electrical equipment for future reference.
- Leave a light on a timer if you’re going away for Christmas or if you’re out for the evening.
- Remember – empty boxes left outside advertise that you have new goods inside.

Out Shopping
- Don’t leave handbags on trolleys or pushchairs.
- Wear bag straps across your body and ensure the zip is closed.
- Keep purses/wallets close to your body.
- Be aware of who is around you at cash points.
- Keep chequebooks and cards separately.

Protect your vehicle
- Never leave anything on display in your vehicle.
- Keep all windows and doors locked.
- Park in a garage if you’ve got one at home.
- When out and about, park in a well-lit open area.

See full story in the Leader

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