Suspicious activity must be reported to 999 during Operation Switch - Police
IT'S the number everyone knows – but not everyone wants to use it.
However 999 calls to police have helped take wanted burglars off Gloucester's streets in recent months.
That community quick thinking is seen by police as a key cog in their latest counter burglary campaign – Operation Switch.
Tip-offs have helped police bring at least two burglars to justice in recent months, with one more due in court this month.
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Career criminal Nathan Hibberd was responsible for 200 burglaries. In July he was spotted cowering in a Tuffley garden by a neighbour, who contacted police. He is now behind bars, serving three and a half years thanks to a 999 call.
Another wanted Gloucester burglar, Aaron Huntley, was arrested in Weston-Super-Mare after skipping bail. He was recognised, police were called and Huntley was sent back to prison.
In August, a woman found a suspected burglar in her house in Reservoir Road.
Police were quick onto the scene and arrested 32-year-old Ryan Lewis, who admitted burglary.
Heading up Operation Switch, launching on Monday, is Chief Inspector Richard Burge.
"The woman was in her kitchen and heard a noise," he said. "She could see a man going up her stairs.
"Listening back to the call had a huge impact. It was a great example of how important it is to use 999.
"It was shocking to hear. "Many of our arrests have been a result of public calls.
"If it is happening there and then or someone is about to commit a crime, they should call 999 every time.
"Hibberd is the best example of that.
"A neighbour saw something suspicious in his garden, a man looking around, so called the police.
"When we arrived Hibberd was actually in the house. "That shows the importance of people ringing in.
"Hibberd was responsible for quite a few burglaries.
"You normally have just one or two burglars who are active at any one time.
"I'm fairly confident we arrest every one. It is very rare we get someone who does a spate of burglaries and then moves on.
"We will catch them eventually. Burglars are very much territorial."
The timing of Operation Switch coincides with darker evenings and the onset of long winter nights.
Police will host information stands around Gloucester, offering advice on home security.
Special devices are also going on sale to help keep burglars at bay. The Mears Group is offering a home security installation service, on behalf of Gloucestershire Constabulary.
Kim Mowday, who advises people on home security for Gloucestershire police, is calling on the public to be the campaign's eyes and ears.
"A burglar may knock on the door, wait and then go back later if no-one answers.
"It's that kind of activity we want people to report.
"It is so important to encourage people to look out of their windows to keep an eye on their street.
"When time is of the essence and there is somebody acting suspiciously, they need to be calling 999."
Pat Dabbs, from Safer Gloucester, said: "We have asked ex-offenders and they have said they would not choose to break into a house that was involved in a neighbourhood watch scheme.
"It would be good if that inspires more people to set up patrols in their area."