I am PC Gareth Tanner and I work in the Complex Case Team from Histon Police Station covering the South Cambridgeshire area.
We have received many requests for information about the arrest and prosecution of two offenders responsible for a number of burglaries in Waterbeach and Cambridge at the end of 2013.
While the investigation was in progress we have not been able to say much about the crimes to avoid impacting on the fairness of the trial, and I’ve heard a number of rumours, mainly on social media; some accurate, some not so accurate. So, now that the trial is complete and two people have been convicted and sentenced, I can tell you a little more.
During the most part of 2013, Waterbeach had up to 2 dwelling burglaries per month. Back in November, however, a couple of burglars had a very busy night committing several times that amount in one night.
The story starts at 3:30am when a resident from Spurgeons Avenue called us to report seeing two males running from his neighbour’s back garden. Officers were dispatched to the area. The house hadn’t been entered as it appeared the offenders had been spooked by a security light. I’m not a salesman but if ever there was an example of small security measures preventing a burglary that is a good one.
Officers and police dog Khan tracked the offenders through Waterbeach for an hour-and-a-half, eventually losing the scent around 5am. Disappointing though it must have been to lose them after such a long track, we didn’t know that within a matter of hours the burglars’ taste for expensive electrical items would be their downfall.
It transpired that during that evening, 5 burglaries had been committed in Waterbeach in which numerous mobile telephones, tablet and laptop computers and alcohol had been stolen.
One of the burglary victims had activated the ‘find my iPad’ app on their stolen device and was able to call us and tell us that his iPad was on Park Crescent.
With most of South Cambs officers busy at the various scenes of the burglaries, 3 of my colleagues from the Impact Team and I rushed across county to get to Park Crescent. We searched three of the houses on the crescent which had been left insecure. In the cupboard under the stairs of the third house we found two burglars, curled up asleep using bags of stolen property as pillows. Bless!
Judging by the looks on their faces when they were woken by 4 police officers, they knew their burgling spree was at an end.
And so began Operation Brooking.
The abandoned house contained more than 50 exhibits for evidence, mostly stolen items and enquiries led us to another empty building on Robson Court where further stolen property was recovered from a burglary in Balsham. Each of these items were then identified and linked to an offence location and finally returned to the rightful owner.
Crime scene investigators attended each of the burgled houses to conduct forensic examinations, and fingerprints, footprints and DNA evidence were recovered from some scenes linking them to the suspects we had arrested.
Detectives worked on Op Brooking from late November 2013 through to early February 2014 in continued contact with the Crown Prosecution Service to build the strongest case possible. The operation involved more than 20 South Cambs officers, in addition to the Tactical Team from Police Headquarters, Kempston Footwear Unit, the Fingerprint Bureau and identification team.
The suspects were released on electronically monitored bail during the most part of the investigation and, much to their annoyance, were intensively monitored by local officers conducting numerous random checks throughout every night. One suspect breached his bail in early January and was arrested the same day and later remanded in prison until his court date.
Both offenders were in Cambridge Court on 19th February.
The first suspect was found guilty of 5 counts of burglary and 2 counts of handling stolen goods. He was sentenced to 12 months detention and a supervised training program. This offender has also admitted being responsible for a further 4 burglaries where there was previously no evidence to convict him; the victims of these crimes have been updated.
The second offender was found guilty of 3 counts of burglary and three counts of handling stolen goods. He was sentenced to a 12-month Youth Offending Service intensive referral order and ordered to pay £100 costs.
South Cambs Police are committed to relentlessly pursuing burglars and are working hard to reduce crime in your area. Op Oaklands was a campaign rolled out on the streets of our communities to prevent burglaries, shed break-ins and vehicle crime by spreading our crime prevention message to the public and reduce the potential reward for criminals.
Operation Oakland took place in Waterbeach on 20th December where officers completed 405 home security surveys, sold a number of our smart shed alarms, and found a whopping 13 insecure houses and 32 insecure vehicles. This is consistent with villages across South Cambs and shows that there is more we can do to make our homes less attractive to criminals.
PC 1365 Gareth Tanner