Thieves beware: Northampton police are tempting you with 'trap cars'

Northamptonshire Police say thieves who target cars are either addicts or more organised groups on the look-out for expensive items
Northamptonshire Police say thieves who target cars are either addicts or more organised groups on the look-out for expensive items

Next time a thief spots an inviting sat-nav, dash cam or tablet in a car parked in Northampton, he may do well to think carfeully before he acts.

Northamptonshire Police have launched Operation Radiator that will see track-able items left on show in their unmarked vehicles around Northampton.

The hope is that thieves will be tempted to take the items and can be tracked and arrested with the stolen goods on him.

PC Lewis Dickens, part of the Weston Favell neighbourhood team, said: "We put out a typical car in a hotspot and if anything is taken, we can track it in real time and catch the offender with the items.

"We want to not only catch the thief but the handler of the stolen goods too."

The reason for Op Radiator, which also reminds drivers of basic vehicle security, is that car crime has risen over the last three or four months and has become a priority.

Motorists are still leaving laptops, wallets and even passports on car seats and criminals all too ready to pounce.

Police put the thieves into two main categories - desperate drug or alcohol addicts who will smash windows if they glimpse a handful of coins and more organised criminals.

The latter group go after vans that they believe contain tools, or the likes of expensive BMWs that often contain expensive electronics.

Because of the nature of the thefts - at night, or in secluded places - the force admits it does not have as much intelligence about the identity of repeat car thieves as it would like. Savvy criminals are also adept at covering their faces or avoiding CCTV cameras altogether.

So PC Dickens says Op Radiator is also about encouraging "community intelligence" from members of the public, including which shops buy stolen goods so that officers can cut off thieves' markets.

PC Dickens said: "Op Radiator is about both preventing crime and being proactive.

"With the trap cars, we can do both. If you can put a thief off or make him think twice we're happy.If he takes a tracked item, then we benefit from that too."