BURGLARIES have tumbled to a new low as covert cops hit the streets and keep a close eye on relentless rogues.
Operation Eagle has landed in Hartlepool with officers patrolling the town’s estates every night dressed in jeans and jackets to target persistent offenders.
The initiative has led to the lowest burglary figures in the town’s history, with a 50 per cent cut in the crime during April compared to the year before.
There were just 19 house raids recorded during the 30 days.
Thefts of and from motor vehicles also dropped along with burglaries from other types of property, such as sheds and garages, as overall inquisitive crime fell by 47.5 per cent for the period.
The Hartlepool Mail joined one team of officers as they patrolled the West View, Owton Manor and the town centre areas of town to see the tough stance being taken by the town’s force first hand.
Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, District Commander for Hartlepool, joined his staff on patrol as they targeted around 10 persistent offenders and stopped anyone wandering around at night.
Supt Gudgeon told the Mail as we weaved around the roads: “There are teams of covert cops hitting these streets seven days a week.
“We are targeting known offenders and if they are at home we know they are not offending. If they’ve strayed and there’s a crime of their type, they are the first people we will pick up.
“We are trying to take away that opportunism and stop people who are known to us from committing the majority of the crime in the town.
“If we see someone walking the streets at 4am, we’ll stop them and ask them why. We’re stopping people before they get the chance to do anything.
“We are in no way saying everyone out in the early hours is up to no good, and I ask the good honest public to understand if they are stopped. All officers will have their identification and will produce it to you.”
During my shift with the police, we knocked on the doors of a burglar well known for having tied up old women in the past and a crook with a heroin problem who struggles with the amount of methadone he is given.
Both were in and both were ready for the police call, realising that the same routine will happen every night until they stop offending for a long period.
Officers also spoke to 30-year-olds loitering on a field in the Manor, who when asked why they were outside so late, said: “Because our missus’ are putting the kids to bed”.
The officers have built up relationships with a lot of the criminals over the years and chatted about their families and house situations while gleaning information.
There was humour and genuine concern, but the police were always looking for any clues of offending and taking note of key details about the people they spoke to.
Supt Gudgeon said: “I work in a really proud police station. The officers here are real grafters and take it personally when they see a crime being committed.
“I look at every crime personally and it frustrates me when one occurs. I want no crime at all and although I realise that is impossible, I am determined to get it as low as we can.”
One man in his 20s from Sedgefield was also arrested on suspicion of possessing a Class A drug after being stop checked in Oxford Road.
As he was handcuffed and put into an unmarked car to be taken to the station, a friend he was with told me: “I didn’t realise they were police. They just appeared out of nowhere.”
And many people will be saying the same over the coming weeks as Operation Eagle shows no signs of letting up.