A SQUAD of covert cops is hitting the streets during the dead of night to catch crooks red-handed.
Up to 15 Hartlepool officers and detectives are donning their civvies and pounding the pavements each night to catch criminals in the act.
Dressed in jeans, hoodies and jackets, they are casually talking on their mobiles, using unmarked cars and cycling around on regular bikes to blend in.
Their ruse is helping to catch criminals in the act as they creep down back alleys, check the dark spots of the town and hang around places that often fall victim to crooks, such as building sites and allotments.
All ranks are taking part in the initiative under the Respect Hartlepool banner, from response and neighbourhood PCs and CID investigators to District Commander Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, who took out a bike to do a night shift.
Inspector Lee Rukin, of Hartlepool Police, said: “Everyone is determined to cut crime in Hartlepool and we are all actively involved, from the top down.
“These patrols have already had huge successes with burglaries and valuable metal thefts both reducing.
“I say to those thinking of committing crime, have a think when you walk out your door at night as you don’t know who could be watching you.
“That person passing you in the street is probably a plain-clothed police officer who will follow you in the shadows without you even knowing.
“Anyone under suspicion will be challenged and will be arrested if the circumstances are justified.”
Arrests made so far include a man on suspicion of going equipped as he allegedly carried a crowbar through the town centre and a man on suspicion of breaking into a car who was also said to have suspected stolen goods found in his home.
The Mail reported yesterday how allotments at Thornhill Gardens had been targeted by yobs, who nicknamed themselves the “party crew” using crude grafitti, during the nights of Sunday and Monday.
On Wednesday night, eight plain-clothed officers surrounded the site to put a halt to any more disruption.
Insp Rukin added: “What we are doing is intelligence led. We will target certain areas where we think there may be activity.
“There have been repeat occurrences at the allotments so we went and stop-checked anyone near the site, there was no crime when we were there but this is also about prevention.”