30 November 2009

Let your hair, not your guard, down this Christmas

The holiday season is supposed to be a happy time to spend with family and friends. Becoming a victim of crime is the last thing most people are thinking about while they're out at Christmas lunches and New Years Eve parties. That said, there are some crimes, including domestic violence, drink driving, robbery and rape, which become more common over the holidays.

The Association of Chief Police Officers launched a new campaign today reminding women of the steps they can take to keep themselves safe. These include:
  • Let your hair down, not your guard down
  • no consent means no sex
  • take a taxi you can trust.

TV ads set in a bar will be reminding men that rape is a short word, but a long sentence.

Sexual assault is a horrific crime that is never deserved. When out with your friends, look out for each others safety. You can read crime prevention advice for women on the Crimestoppers website.

Cross-dressing to catch criminals

The Japanese have come up with some truly ingenious ways to fight crime. First there was the Japanese designer who made a skirt that could be transformed into a vending machine costume, allowing women to hide from pursuers, now police have started cross-dressing to catch criminals.

In the central Aichi prefecture, all-male police squads have been taking to the streets wearing wigs, skirts and high heels while carrying designer handbags. They are attempting to catch criminals who have been mugging well-dressed women.

Entry into the squads is elite - officers must be male, young, slim and hold a black belt in karate. Although I don't hold a black belt in karate (that's more of Granny Robyn's cup of tea), I'm confident I'd still be accepted into the squad as I excel against the other qualification criteria.

The Asahi daily reported that although some of the officers have been propositioned while walking the beat, no muggers have been arrested so far.

Can you think of any other creative ways to tackle crime? Get in touch and let me know.

25 November 2009

Just because you like Twilight, doesn't make you a vampire

Now that Jedward have left the X-Factor, there is another debate involving an Edward on everyone's lips: have you seen the Twilight film New Moon yet and if so, are you team Jacob or team Edward?

Not having a preference between vampires or werewolves, I'm finding it difficult to choose...

One man in America certainly demonstrated his preference in a bizarre, scary (and illegal) way this week.

A 17-year-old girl was watching New Moon with a friend in a Miami cinema when a man sitting in the row ahead started making inappropriate comments at them. As the girls left the cinema following the film, the man approached them and bit one on the neck. The bite luckily didn't piece the skin but (understandably) shook the victim up.

Every now and again articles come up in the media about pop culture inspiring people to commit crimes. Often discussions focus on whether violent computer games, films and song lyrics have resulted in society becoming more violent. Hopefully nothing like this happens again and the Twilight films can stay as they’re intended to be – as fiction.

24 November 2009

A bank robber stole my homework

There's been a fair few stories written on the I spy a crime blog lately about burglars and robberies that have been carried out by some very clumsy crooks. Here's another for you, this time about an alleged American bank robber who tried to dispose of evidence in a very a dog ate my homework kind of way.

John Ford was caught on police video chewing a piece of paper while he was handcuffed and in police custody. It is alleged he grabbed the paper in his mouth as police emptied his pockets. Police believe the piece of paper was the note he had just used to hold up a bank. I don't think destroying the note would have ruined the police's case against Ford - his car was found nearby containing a bag full of money and a bank dye pack that had recently exploded.

Bank robbery is a crime that I think is often misunderstood - it doesn't only damage the banks, it also affects people who work in banks and the communities banks are in. Crimestoppers has appealed for information about bank robberies in Greater Manchester previously. There is even a £100,000 reward available for information about bank robberies in the Greater Manchester region. Information must lead to an arrest and conviction to be eligible.

Maybe instead of robbing banks, would-be criminals would be better off keeping their ear to the ground and passing on information about other bank robbers!

23 November 2009

Crimestoppers: fighting crime in your community

Have you ever wondered how Crimestoppers works or what successes we have had? Northern Ireland Crimestoppers has made a film about the charity and some cases we have helped solve.

Make sure you watch it to learn more about the charity and how it is helping local communities all over the UK.

19 November 2009

Want-to-be thief gets stuck in window with his trousers down

When I first watched the video below, two phrases sprung to mind. The first was crime doesn't pay and the second was don't get caught with your trousers down. I bet the man in the video is starting to agree with at least the second one!

The bare-legged man was trying to gain entry to a supermarket by climbing through a basement window when he got stuck halfway. His trousers fell down leaving his pants revealed to onlookers for 11 hours. Police suspect he was trying to break-in to the supermarket at the time and once released, took him to the station for questioning.

17 November 2009

Jingle bells, jingle bells, win a Nintendo DS Lite

I was at London's Oxford Circus last weekend when I had a sudden "Oh wow, Christmas is getting close" realisation. The streets were decorated with bright A Christmas Carole themed lights and shop windows displayed banners telling me that my partner would love a new blender/jumper/iPod for Christmas.

If you are eyeing off mince pies and turkey in the supermarket and are generally feeling festive, why not channel that into entering Crimestoppers' 2010 Christmas Card Competition? The competition is open to those aged from 5 to 21 and entries must be received by the charity before 8 January 2010. If you're over 21, why not encourage a young person you know to get involved? There are great prizes to be won including a Nintendo DS Lite, £200 worth of shopping vouchers and an iPod Touch.

Children aged 5 to 10 are asked to design a card that combines a Christmas message with a warning about the rise of burglary at Christmas. 11 to 16 year-olds should design a card featuring a Christmas message with a warning about the risks of drink-driving at Christmas. 17 to 21 year-olds are encouraged to combine a Christmas message with a warning about the rise of domestic violence at Christmas.

One winning design will be chosen from each age group. This design will then be turned into a 2010 Christmas card! You can get more information about the competition on the Crimestoppers website.

Get designing and good luck!

13 November 2009

Let's Stamp out distraction burglary

Now I don't know about you, but I've been a fan of The Bill since it first aired in August 1983. The dishy characters combined with riveting story lines make it must-watch TV. That's why when I heard the Home Office's new distraction burglary campaign was being fronted by Graham Cole (fellow Bill fans might know him better as PC Tony Stamp), I sat up and paid attention.

Distraction burglary is when someone gains access to your home by false pretences, such as claiming to be from a utility company, to steal your belongings. The Home Office reports that older people and students are most at risk of it.

When someone I don’t know knocks on my front door, I always check their ID before even thinking about letting them enter my house. Always call the company the visitor claims to be from to clarify who they are. I’ve done this many times and genuine callers don’t mind waiting. If you would like more information about protecting yourself from distraction burglary, check out the Crimestoppers website. Also, the Home Office has put together free Secure your home packs as part of their campaign.

You can never be too careful with your health and the safety of your home so learn how to protect yours today.

I'll leave you with the wise words of Graham Cole, my man of the hour: "Anytime someone knocks on your door, if in doubt keep them out.”

12 November 2009

Facebook status used as alibi

It seems to me that the courts are increasingly acknowledging the role social networking plays in modern life. 

There have been a few cases recently in which status updates or photos posted on social networking sites have been used as evidence in criminal trials. Judges have also placed restrictions on criminals using social networking sites as part of sentencing; in August, members of the Manchester-based Fallowfield Mad Dogs were forbidden from uploading photos of themselves with other gang members to MySpace.

Now, possibly for the first time, a man has used a Facebook status update as an alibi. Rodney Bradford was arrested as a suspect in a gun-point mugging in New York. The charges were dropped after it was revealed that Rodney's Facebook profile had been updated with the status "Where's my pancakes" at the time the mugging occurred.  Facebook verified the address from which Rodney's page had been updated.

I'll be watching the papers closely to see if people using their online activities as proof of their offline movements becomes an increasing trend. Have you heard of any cases like this? Be sure to get in touch and let me know.

11 November 2009

Crime-fighting at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics

As much as I love the UK, one of the main things I miss about Spain is the mild weather. I woke up today to frost on my lawn for the first time this season - winter is upon us and, as a man of the sun, I'm not a fan.

The only decent thing about winter is snow sports. I'm a boarder through and through. My goatee tends to get a little frosty doing it though.

In my mind, the highlight of this winter is bound to be the Winter Olympics, being held in Vancouver this February. Global events like these provide different challenges to security and law enforcement agencies.

The charity Crimestoppers have appealed for the public to pass on information anonymously about crimes that may negatively impact the Games. Information passed to Crimestoppers about the Winter Olympics is passed on to Canadian Crime Stoppers to help the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit, which is in charge of security, to enable the Games to be played in a safe and secure environment.

Help protect the Winter Olympics and Paralympics – arguably the best thing about the chilly season – by spreading the word about this campaign.

10 November 2009

Man drives to court to face auto-theft charges in a stolen car

Following on from Mask of Manuel's post on Friday about a student who was caught drink-driving while dressed as a breathalyser, it been revealed that a man in California stole a car to drive to his court hearing for auto-theft charges.

Samuel Botchvaroff was arrested by police sitting outside Vallejo courthouse in a stolen Range Rover. He told police officers that he had steal the car as his own car had been impounded and he had no other way of attending the court hearing. Police didn't take sympathy on Botchvaroff and arrested him on auto-theft charges... again.

Fingers crossed he learns his lesson and takes public transport to his next hearing!

9 November 2009

Myth busters: Crimestoppers isn't Crimewatch

When I tell people I blog for Crimestoppers, some of the most common conversations that follow are along the lines of...

"Do you ever get to appear on TV?"
"You know, on TV - have you ever been on it?"
"No... Well, I think as a child I used to climb on our black and white one from time to time... But I haven't been on it in a Barbara Windsor kind of way. Why?"
"I just thought you might have; blogging for the TV show Crimestoppers and all."
"Well, blogging tends to be more of an Internet thing and Crimestoppers isn't a TV show, it's an independent charity."
"But Crimestoppers is a TV show too, right? I've seen it on BBC1 before."
"No, that's Crimewatch. Crimestoppers is completely separate from Crimewatch. We run the 0800 555 111 number through which people can anonymous pass on information about crime. Crimewatch is a TV show that shows reconstructions of unsolved crimes."
"Oh.. so I don't suppose you know Kirsty Young then?"
"Well no, she's the host of Crimewatch."

While I am a big fan of Crimewatch, it does frustrate me when people confuse it with Crimestoppers. We perform important but very different functions. As a result of information passed to Crimestoppers, 19 people are arrested and charged everyday and every four days someone is arrested for murder.

Next time you’re watching Crimewatch (it’s on this Thursday 12 November), mention to anyone you’re with that it is separate from Crimestoppers and hopefully the word will start to spread.

6 November 2009

A Halloween costume I won't be trying

I always find the week after Halloween a little sad, as it means it will be another year before the next one comes around. I love thinking up witty and original costumes and love spotting costume trends. Now that Halloween has passed, the only costume trend I'll be seeing is Santa suits and they're not my style.

This week I read an article in the paper about a man who took his quest to find an original Halloween costume too far...

James Miller, a student from Ohio, USA, went out for Halloween dressed up as a breathalyser. While wearing his costume James proceeded to drink and then drive home the wrong way down a one way street. Police stopped and used a real breathalyser on James to discover he was well over the limit. Looking at a photo of James, you can see that he was definitely in no state to be driving a car.

It's lucky the police caught James before he had an accident - drink driving is a crime for good reason, it is dangerous and irresponsible.

In the six months to September, Crimestoppers received nearly 3,000 calls about drink drivers.
Rates of drink-driving tend to go up in the months leading up to Christmas. This festive season make sure you not only watch your alcohol consumption if you are driving, but also be aware that there might be dangerous drivers on the road.

4 November 2009

London mayor saves woman from street attack

As a superhero I'm always one to notice good deeds done by others, especially when they involve keeping the community safe. Today I'm sending a virtual high-five to Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, for helping protect a local resident.

Franny Armstrong, documentary maker and environmental activist, was being hassled by a group of young girls wielding an iron bar in Camden, north London on Monday night. She called to a passing cyclist, who turned out to be Mr Johnson, for help. Mr Johnson chased the girls away on his bike and returned to walk Ms Armstrong home.

Ms Armstrong said she didn't notice the girls approaching because she was busy texting.

Even those who know their local streets inside out can get into trouble if they're not savvy of their surroundings. I'm a tough guy but I still follow general safety practices like walking with my head up and swinging my arms - looking and acting confident can help you stay safe.

Andrew Greenslade, a former long-service police detective, special branch officer, and crime investigation skills trainer, has written an article of practical personal safety tips for Crimestoppers. Have a read of Be safe and stay safe and learn how to keep yourself safe. After all, if you get into trouble you might not be lucky enough to have Mr Johnson cycling down your street at the same time!

3 November 2009

Help find Madeleine McCann

When children go missing it is always incredibly sad and stunning for everybody around them. The disappearance of Madeleine McCann was no exception; people worldwide were shocked at how easily a little girl could disappear from her bed.

More than two years on from Madeleine’s disappearance, her family are still searching for her. The UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre released a video today reminding people of Maddie and prompting those who know something about her whereabouts to contact police.

Watch the video below and share this link with your friends and family. Please note that Crimestoppers cannot take information on Madeleine’s disappearance. If you wish to pass on information about her, please contact your local police force.

2 November 2009

Who said burglars need masks?

Here at I spy a crime, we love the motto is Fight crime without revealing your identity. A story I read online today stood out at me because the crooks involved did the exact opposite - commited a crime while leaving no doubt about who they were!

Matthew Allan McNelly, 23, and Joey Lee Miller, 20, can only be described as dumb and dumber after 'disguising' their faces using permanent marker while attempting to break into a house in Iowa, USA.

It was reported that they had been drinking before they decided to break into the property, where one of the men believed his ex-girlfriend was staying. Neighbours reported seeing men with painted faces drive away in a white car from the scene.

Police located the vehicle with McNelly and Miller still inside. Both men were charged with attempted burglary, and McNelly was charged additionally with operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Check out a photo of these men if you haven't already; theirs has to be one of the most bizarre disguises I’ve seen in my crime-fighting days!