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Prolific burglars, robbers and thieves to be fitted with GPS tags in Avon and Somerset

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Avon and Somerset Police is one of six forces taking part in a world-first scheme involving burglars, thieves and robbers being made to wear GPS tags on release from prison.

With more than half of those convicted of theft and burglary reoffending within a year, this will be a vital extra source of intelligence to help police catch these persistent offenders.

Under new rules, offenders committing acquisitive crimes that have served a prison sentence of a year or more will be automatically fitted with a tag on release, allowing their whereabouts to be monitored by GPS satellites 24 hours a day for up to 12 months.

Police will work with HM Prison and Probation Service staff to investigate whether those on the tags have been in the vicinity of recent offences. It could provide the crucial evidence needed to catch the perpetrators.

The intention is the tags will also act as a deterrent, protecting the public from further burglaries and thefts and targeting so-called ‘career criminals’.

Minister for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse MP said: “Being burgled or robbed is devastating and I understand how frustrating it is when the perpetrators can’t be caught, both for the public and the police.

“Tagging these prolific offenders so we know where they are 24 hours a day should be powerful persuasion to change their ways and will help police find and charge them if they don’t. It’s another tool helping probation staff to cut crime and keep the public safe.”

National Police Chief’s Council Electronic Monitoring Lead, Deputy Chief Constable Jon Stratford said: “Tagging prolific offenders provides a strong deterrent and means officers will be able to quickly arrest and gather evidence against anyone suspected of being involved in a robbery, burglary or other theft.

“This scheme will play a part in our overall work to prevent crime and keep our communities safe.”

DCI Dickon Turner, who leads the Integrated Offender Management team at Avon and Somerset Police, said: “We’re pleased to be one of the initial six forces taking part in this scheme and we estimate around 60 offenders will be tagged within the first six months in our force area.

“This innovative partnership approach will provide another tool we can use to help break the cycle of re-offending and reduce the amount of acquisitive crime committed.

“We know these crimes cause untold misery to victims. We believe this scheme will intensify our ability to tackle these offences head-on and bring prolific offenders to justice.”

The scheme will initially launch in six police force areas (Avon and Somerset, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Gwent, Humberside and West Midlands) on 12 April and will be extended to a further 13 areas in September.

Police officers will be able to submit any offences they are investigating to a dedicated unit overseen by HM Prison and Probation Service. Trained staff will then be able to check the location history of those on tags against the details of the crime, allowing police to either rule out or investigate suspects further.

The joined up nature of this work builds on the recently updated Integrated Offender Management strategy, which sees police and the Probation Service working together to reduce neighbourhood crime.