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Burglars beware! UK police success with shoe scanner

 
 
contrex
 
Reply Sun 12 Apr, 2015 11:19 am
The new star of Colindale police station in north London is a box that looks a bit like a bathroom scale with hazard patterning, and it has singlehandedly nabbed 71 burglars in the past eight months. It’s their new footwear-scanner and for now it is unique. Soon, though, it will be a basic part of many custody officers’ procedures: fingerprints, photograph, DNA, shoe-print. The plan is to roll the scanners out to the rest of London over the next year, then nationally. Beyond that, the Metropolitan police are talking to interested parties from as far away as the US.

Everyone’s shoe-print is unique – the police have long known that. The problem they have faced has been one of processing. “Historically, prints were taken with paper and ink,” says Constable Jason Hall, who has been working with the Colindale scanner for eight months. “Then you’d send them off to the central database where they’d be entered manually. The whole process would take between three and five days, by which point a lot of suspects would be out on bail or released.”

Officers now pass about 70% of suspects through the device – up from 3% under the old system. In one case, a man arrested for a minor offence was linked to seven local burglaries, thanks to the scanner.

Of course, the system relies on a criminal still owning the shoes they used during the crime after their arrest. “But you’d be surprised,” a senior police officer contends. “A lot of these trainers are quite expensive. It’s a fashion thing.”

http://i.guim.co.uk/static/w-620/h--/q-95/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/4/10/1428673588197/The-new-shoe-scanner-at-C-007.jpg

http://i.guim.co.uk/static/w-380/h--/q-95/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/4/10/1428673650327/00a88e75-7211-4dcb-926d-ab3e6a93ae5b-400x600.jpeg
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Type: Question • Score: 1 • Views: 946 • Replies: 3
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Lordyaswas
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Apr, 2015 04:03 pm
@contrex,
How interesting!

About ten years ago, I worked on a project looking at ways to reduce burglaries in and around North London. There were representatives from several areas, including Colindale, Edgware, Kilburn etc., and the topic of footwear "fingerprinting" was covered. It now seems that technology has now made it a viable means of detection.

The other things that I remember from that brainstorming were :

1. The stats showed that burglars generally travelled no further than a mile from their home when plying their trade.
2. Police were having a difficult time of it in physically catching these offenders, as the many terraced houses afforded numerous passageways for these lads to use.
An initiative with the relevant councils and the big Insurance Companies resulted in a large proportion of these passages being closed off with gates, supplied and fitted free to the buildings, whose residents were fed up with having their properties used as a rat run.

And 3. It became apparent that burglars were gaining entry into many houses, simply by using a garden spade to lever up a sliding door until it came out of its runners. They would also simply remove the UPVC widow strips (which at that time used to release outwards) and then casually pick out the pane and climb through.
A report was sent to the relevant government department who pretty quickly brought out new minimum standards, making UPVC windows and doors much more secure.

The other area was to do with high value shoplifting, usually carried out to feed a drug habit. When figures were studied, it showed that the addicted burglars used to nearly always go for shaving razors and blades, and packs of batteries. These are small and easily concealed, and fetch a good price when sold on to a "fence".
Our report was shared with the Institute of Grocers, and that is probably why nowadays all razor blades are sold in big security locked boxes in the supermarkets.

The study itself opened up a major discussion about, believe it or not, the legalisation (under strict government control) of Heroin.
In every single area that took part, it was found that the vast majority of burglaries at that time were committed to feed a drug habit.
On average, goods worth over £100 were stolen each day by an addict who had to find £20 or so to keep him going for another day.
Every £100 burglary would also incur another £200 or so damage caused during the break in.
The thinking was that if you took away the need for that heroin addict to get £25 of drugs forcthe day, you would save society over £300 and a lot of grief and heartache.
The suggested plan was that the addict could go to a proper, clean, safe clinic and get his fix for the day, and if and when he was ever ready, to help him to come off the drug concerned, giving him the necessary support.


The problem in all of this was public perception. It would take a very brave politician to rubber stamp such a scheme.

The tabloids would also have had a field day.

The idea is still knocking around out there somewhere, and re-surfaces from time to time.
One day, when people actually think it through properly, it might take wings and fly.


Sorry to digress from the footprint story, but it just rang a bell or two when I read it.


PS....I think our gated passageways idea rolled out throughout the country eventually, and has stopped many a burglar from disappearing up somebody's back passage.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Apr, 2015 01:52 pm
@Lordyaswas,
Lordyaswas wrote:
2. Police were having a difficult time of it in physically catching these offenders, as the many terraced houses afforded numerous passageways for these lads to use.
An initiative with the relevant councils and the big Insurance Companies resulted in a large proportion of these passages being closed off with gates, supplied and fitted free to the buildings, whose residents were fed up with having their properties used as a rat run.


I used to live in a terraced house in Bristol, and there was a lane at the end, running across to the next street along, and also the back gardens of the houses in the two streets had a lane running between them so you had a T shaped alley. A lot of the gardens had back gates. There had been quite a few burglaries in preceding years. About 10 years ago a "Crimestoppers" initiative paid for the 3 gates needed. Padlocks fitted and keys provided to keyholders near to each gate who would lend them to other residents wanting to get around the back.

http://i124.photobucket.com/albums/p29/badoit/Backlane_zpsnkn2nxx9.jpg

We soon found out that this sort of scheme depends heavily on people playing the game. It only needs one selfish twat in a hurry to cut off a padlock with bolt croppers, and then just leave it insecure, to ruin the point of the whole thing. Right now they have expensive tough locks and well publicised contact details for keyholders so fingers crossed.

I think fly tipping was more of a problem than burglaries anyhow.

I did read an article recently which said that burglary was on a dramatic decline in the UK and across the developed world, due to a combination of factors e.g. less 18-24 year olds around, and those that are leading sober lives, less resale value for things that can be stolen, better policing, more CCTV, more burglar alarms, etc.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Apr, 2015 05:46 pm
Listening to both of you.

Somewhere in the last year I read a book unlikely for me, as it was by a policeman, about which I've some mixed feelings, pro and con or, really, con and pro, and in the middle, and I've, y'know, read a lot of police procedurals in my day, but this one was non fiction and, to me, well written. Not about England, but the Bronx, but also history re NYC police. I recommend it. I know that lordy knows me well, but maybe you don't, contrex, know me well enough to suddenly look into the book.

Still, if you see it in a store, pick it up -
Blue Blood, by Edward Conlan.
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