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200+ suspects charged and 580 stolen cars recovered in blitz on home raid car thieves 

A West Midlands Police operation targeting crime gangs behind the rise in car key burglaries has netted almost 1,000 suspects in the last five months – and led to the recovery of almost 600 stolen vehicles.

The force launched the offensive – codenamed Operation Cantil – last September and saw police teams tasked with going after crooks that break into homes to steal keys and drive off in high-value cars.

Roads policing units worked into the early hours with offender managers acting as ‘spotters’ on the look-out for known offenders.

Alongside other specialist units, including dog teams, they collectively targeted areas that had been hit with burglaries plus near the home addresses of potential suspects. 

Traffic cops have made Op Cantil burglary patrols their priority since September
Traffic cops have made Op Cantil burglary patrols their priority since September

It’s yielded great results with 979 suspects arrested – including 296 for burglary or car theft – the recovery of 581 stolen cars, and more than 300 police pursuits of suspects.

More than 200 of those arrested have since been charged, including suspected burglars and vehicle crime offenders, plus drink drivers and people who were on the run having skipped bail.

Last week a gang of five Romanian nationals were remanded into prison accused of breaking into hundreds of homes across the West Midlands between 2015 to 2018 – arrests that were made by cops on Op Cantil patrols.

And a 17-year-old boy was also arrested by officers assigned to the operation and has since been linked to 52 car key burglaries in the West Midlands and West Mercia areas.

West Midlands Police Superintendent Dave Twyford heads up Op Cantil. He said: “Our aim was to gather intelligence more effectively to identify and catch offenders… and that intelligence is now helping us to predict and prevent offending.

“By using highly-trained roads policing staff alongside investigation and offender management teams we are able to enhance our tactics. When an offence is now reported we are able to better understand the crime, who is involved and plan our action to tackle it. This approach is now starting to pay off with a reduction in these types of offences. 

“However, we are not complacent and we will be continuing our focus on the offenders as well as endeavouring to target those who are controlling them.”

Burglary, car theft and drink drive suspects, plus wanted people on the run, have all been caught under Op Cantil
Burglary, car theft and drink drive suspects, plus wanted people on the run, have all been caught under Op Cantil

And Supt Twyford said the on-going work has revealed a trend of young men and teenagers – often ‘clean skins’ without criminal convictions – being recruited by seasoned crooks to do the dirty work on their behalf.

He added: “We’re seeing young men, often below the age of 20, targeted by hardened crooks who are themselves are no longer willing to take the risk to do the time, but still want to thrive off the spoils of car key crime.

“They persuade youngsters with the lure of cash, tracksuits and trainers to take the risk, telling them the police can’t do anything as they have no previous convictions. A huge amount of serious offending among our young people is being discovered.

“These young people can be making anything between £100 and £1,000 a time for each car they steal – and when we recover their phones we often discover they are like a diary of crime, full of information about their offending.

“But they’re being peddled a myth about police being powerless to act – and young men getting lured into this type of crime are seriously blighting their futures and could end up in prison.”

Operation Cantil is continuing into 2019 as West Midlands Police keeps up the pressure on car thieves and organised crime gangs.  

For more information on how to protect your home – including anti-snap locks – check out the UK Police approved Secured by Design website: 

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