Thursday 04 June 2020

‘Number plate of the week’ scheme helps police catch travelling criminals

Police follow criminals on the motorway network. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Police say they have solved dozens of cases of burglary and shoplifting cases by using motorway cameras to target itinerant gangs.

The national police unit told AD its ‘number plate of the week’ initiative was successful in eight out of 10 cases. Officers select a car that has been linked to crimes in different places and track it using automatic number plate recognition, in the hope of catching the culprits red-handed.

‘We pick out criminals who are causing a lot of trouble,’ Harry Dahles, head of the team in Driebergen, said. ‘People who are shoplifting all over the place, or talking their way into old ladies’ homes and making off with their money and jewellery.

‘Sometimes the cars are used by burglars at night and shoplifters during the day. Just by pulling over the car we find out who’s driving it.’

In some cases stolen items are found in the car, allowing police to arrest the occupants, while at other times police connect the vehicle to crimes in several locations by tracing its history in the motorway camera network.

‘In eight out of ten cases we score a hit and find out we’ve pulled over a shoplifter, pickpocket or serial burglar,’ said Dahles.

He said the scheme had made it easier to tackle crimes committed by itinerant gangs who often elude the efforts of local police units to catch them. ‘If a local unit is dealing with a wave of burglaries in the neighbourhood, give us the numberplate and we can follow the car all round the country.’

He gave the example of a group of three bag snatchers who were caught after police folllowed them to a supermarket in Rijswijk and stopped them in the act. A review of security camera footage revealed that they had also been operating in Deventer.

Dahles said the ‘numberplate of the week’ system worked because it concentrates on a single vehicle. ‘That’s more effective than putting 100 numberplates in the system without having the capacity to stop them all. But if regional forces deploy their own manpower, we can follow as many cars as we like.’

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