September 2014

Capture Car Led Police To ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ Of Stolen Laptops

A man who handled laptop computers stolen in burglaries at student homes in Leeds was caught as a result of a police ‘sting’ operation targeting car criminals.

The offender was stopped by police just 40 minutes after a satellite navigation system was stolen from a police ‘capture car’ in May last year.

The stolen sat-nav was found during a search of his car along with a number of other electrical items that had been taken in a house burglary earlier the same day.

When officers searched his bedroom, at the home he shared with his family they recovered 20 laptop computers and other electrical goods.

Officers spent more than three months conducting enquiries that identified the owners of 14 of the computers who confirmed they had been stolen in burglaries in the area. Those laptops have since been returned to their owners.

In interview, the offender told officers he bought used laptops from computer fairs and other sources, used his knowledge of computers to overhaul them and then sold them on, often using internet auction sites.

Given that many of the stolen laptops he was caught with were taken from student homes, it is ironic that one of the methods he used to sell them was through student notice boards at the University of Leeds.

He had originally been charged with the theft of the sat-nav and the associated burglaries but was then later charged with 13 offences of handling the stolen laptops. He pleaded guilty to 11 of those handling charges when he appeared at court in February.

When he appeared at Leeds Crown Court today (12/4) he was sentenced to 65 weeks in custody, suspended for two years, given a 12-month supervision order and ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work. A confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act was made against him for the value of the stolen laptops.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Williams, Crime Manager for North West Leeds Division, said: “This case illustrates how effective innovative tactics, such as our use of capture cars, continue to be in helping us to catch and convict criminals.

“(The Offender) had no previous convictions of note and was not on our radar, yet here was someone who was in possession of a large amount of stolen property and who was clearly actively involved in handling stolen goods on a significant scale.

“Our capture cars, capture houses and, most recently, capture bikes are primarily used to catch the burglars and thieves themselves, but this example shows how they also play a really important role in helping us to catch those involved in handling stolen goods.

“He was an enterprising young man who had two jobs, was also studying, and owned several properties but he was clearly motivated by greed and saw an opportunity to profit from the trade in stolen goods without any thought for the victims of those crimes.

“Behind every one of those stolen laptops is a victim who has suffered the experience of their home being invaded and their possessions taken. He was happy to ignore that fact to make money.

“The trade in stolen goods is what underlies burglary and other acquisitive crime and we will continue to use all available means to pursue those who are involved in this type of crime.”