13 April 2010
Police and thieves
It was meant to be an imaginative way of hammering home the message that some householders are making life too easy for burglars. But police were under fire today after admitting they had been sneaking into people's homes through open doors and windows and gathering up their valuables into "swag" bags.
Officers in Exeter –who left the swag behind, together with crime prevention information – found more than 50 unsecured properties and claimed people had been glad to receive the wake-up call and advice. But not all residents were happy and a criminal lawyer suggested that the police may have been guilty of trespass [...]
Devon and Cornwall police said the operation was launched after a "spike" in burglaries, mainly at student accommodation. Officers had encouraged householders to take security more seriously but warnings were not heeded. Other forces have tried initiatives such as rattling windows and trying doors then shouting to residents – sometimes waking them up – to warn them they may be at risk. Officers decided a more "innovative approach" was needed and the "swag" campaign was launched [...]
A spokesman said: "This initiative was carried out with the best of intentions. However we do accept that our actions of entering properties to leave the bags could be deemed as trespass. This was a one-off initiative which we will not be repeating."
- Guardian, 29 March 2010