Friday, 3 February 2012

Police Tactics Caused Controversy

I was spoilt for choice with topics to write about this week – so much going on!

I watched an interesting documentary on BBC about new controversial police tactics Nottingham Police are using to catch burglars. Nottingham had the highest figures in the UK for burglary, and the Police Force decided they needed to take drastic action.

They set up ‘capture houses’ or occasionally ‘capture rooms’. These were ordinary houses, or rooms within occupied houses, which had been set up with all the latest gadgets and technology to ‘capture’ the offenders. The rooms were set up as any normal room would be, with furniture and ornaments, and contained valuables which have proven to be high attractive to repeat offenders (laptops, mobile phones, ipads).

The rooms were then rigged with cameras to capture the offender in action, and ‘smart spray’ was triggered when the valuables were moved by the offender. The ‘smart spray’ contains chemicals which to stick to the offenders clothes and skin, and the particles in each can of smart spray are unique to each spray can produced. This enables the Police to pin point the exact location that any smart spray found on a potential offender came from, thus making the evidence indisputable.

Through this method, the Police were able to catch and successfully prosecute a large number of offenders, and drastically reduce the statistics for burglary in Nottingham.

What I found most shocking when watching the documentary was the argument raised by some people against using such ‘capture houses’. It was suggested that this method of catching criminals was a form of entrapment, and that the Police were being “unfair” by creating a ‘set up’ situation, causing people who “wouldn’t otherwise offend to be attracted to the properties”. If this method of catching criminals in the act was a form of entrapment, the Police would simply not be allowed to use it, and the Government would have intervened.

Entrapment would be if the Police were contacting offenders directly, and providing specific details of houses to break into, which was clearly not the case here. The offenders had free will, and quite clearly chose to enter the houses and take property that did not belong to them. Talk about “unfair”.

Having been a victim of burglary twice in the last couple of years, this is a topic that I feel very strongly about – I am all for the use of ‘capture houses’ and, given the positive results Nottingham Police have seen from the use of them, maybe other Police Forces should consider implementing them nationwide.

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