‘Beady eyes’ helping to cut crime for shoppers

POLICE and a team of volunteers have been ‘snooping’ in car windows in a bid to help combat a rise in vehicle crime.

Officers from Peterlee Police have been patrolling East Durham streets and car parks looking inside car and van windows to warn people not to leave valuables on show.

In just one trip to the Asda car park in Peterlee, officers and volunteers spotted 40 vehicles which had property in full sight of passers-by and potential criminals.

Peterlee Police’s message is clear: “If we can see it, then so can thieves.”

The initiative, Operation Hawkeye, is proving successful in helping to educate motorists in keeping their valuables safe, following a spate of thefts from motor vehicles.

In recent weeks, mobile phones, sat-navs and house keys have been among a number of items stolen from vehicles in a sharp rise in such thefts.

Inspector Dave Coxon, of Peterlee Police, said: “There has been an increase in the number of crimes reported where vehicles have been left insecure and valuables which were on show have been taken.

“This approach is being used to good effect in places like Durham City and elsewhere and there is no reason why it shouldn’t work here.”

Once valuables are spotted on show, officers take down the vehicle’s registration and write to the owner with crime prevention advice.

Officers have even enlisted the help of young volunteers from the SAFC Foundation of Light at Caterpillar to add extra pairs of “beady eyes” to the scheme.

PCSOs Sharon Bowman and Amanda Jepson took students to the Asda car park to help with Operation Hawkeye.

PCSO Bowman said: “The operation was a success where we were able to educate 40 drivers to keep valuables out of sight and safe from prying eyes.

“The items on display were a mixture of iPhones and Blackberrys on charge, shopping bags full of groceries, sat-navs and their cradles, CDs, house keys and chargers.

“I debriefed the group, who said it was very interesting and educational, and asked if they could do it again.

“Members of the public stopped to talk to us asking what we were doing and were happy we were pro-active.”