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.